Tennessee among worst places for women in America - WKRN News 2

Tennessee among worst places for women in America


A new study released by iVillage.com, a Web site geared toward women, lists Tennessee as one of the worst states for women.

Looking at reproductive rights, health care, economic success, access to affordable childcare, female representation in government and educational attainment, the site spent four months studying each of the 50 states to determine which states were the best for women.

Connecticut ranked No. 1 in the country, while Mississippi ranked the worst at No. 50.

The study found Tennessee women lag behind the national average in pay and the number of women who complete a bachelor's degree.

According to the study, Tennessee women have median yearly earnings of $31,854, 13% lower than the national average of $36,551.

When it comes to college graduation, the study found that 23% of women in Tennessee earn a bachelor's degree.  The national average is 28%.

"We have got to increase the number of our young people who are going to school graduating and receiving college degrees," District 54 State Rep. Brenda Gilmore said. "Sixty-nine percent of all households are run by women and we need to make sure women have all the tools and resources they need to take care of their families."

Rep. Gilmore said the community should encourage girls to take on challenging academic courses that boys are typically encouraged to take.

"Sometimes we challenge men and our young boys into chemistry and biology and we put women into soft courses," she said. "We have got to plant the dream in their heads that they can be what they want to be."

She continued. "They can be, if they want to be, entrepreneurs or business owners."

The study also cited Tennessee's stance on reproductive rights for women.

In particular, the study took issue with a bill introduced by state Rep. Matthew Hill.

The bill required the names of doctors who perform abortions to be published online.  The measure also called for demographical information about women seeking abortions to be published by county.

While the information would not include the women's names, critics worried that in rural areas it would be possible to identify the women.

Hill removed the professions from the bill called the "Life Defense Act of 2012" Tuesday.

He said he received death threats after details of the bill made national news. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating the alleged death threats.

Rep. Gilmore said the bill is an example of how women need to have a stronger voice in Tennessee.

"I think it says to women that they don't value us, that they can make decisions for us. Particularly as it regards our health and women's rights," she said.

Rep. Gilmore continued, "Women have the largest voice in terms of voting blocks and sometimes we relegate that over in terms of not going to vote or sometimes asking our significant other who we should vote for. "

The YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee is working to empower girls in the state through the Girls, Inc. program.

The national program is geared toward inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold, according to the program's Web site.

The YWCA started its chapter of Girls, Inc. in 2008.  Since then, more than 350 middle school girls have participated at seven Metro Nashville Public School middle schools.

"It is important for middle school girls to understand that as they become adults they will have a voice and they will represent their communities," YWCA Vice-President of Programs Pam Sessions said.  "Middle school girls are very impressionable. It is important to establish a good foundation."

Sessions said the program encourages girls not to feel limited by their gender, when it comes to interests or professional aspirations.

"We need our middle school girls to know that just as their mothers are head of households taking care of families, they need to be in positions where they can become heads of households one day," she said. "They can be heads of corporations.  They can be teachers.  They can be doctors and attorneys."

She continued, "Anything a man can do these girls can do." 

Sessions said the result of the empowerment of girls will be women who are a stronger force in Tennessee.

"They have to learn how to participate in their community in ways that impact not just them individually, but society as a whole," she said.

Nearby state, Kentucky ranked No. 46 out of 50 in the study.

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