Though referred to snidely by a Texas Senator, “New York values” aren’t a bad thing. In fact, our state and city’s values that have provided opportunities to those that enter our country spanning centuries. In my experience, New York–and New York City in particular–has been a beacon of hope for the underdogs where people of any gender and race can succeed. As a woman and New Yorker, I’ve earned great success here and watched others do the same.
But does New York actually lead the country in equality, and gender equality in particular? It’s certainly a progressive state, but it’s worth investigating how the rest of America stacks up in comparison.
After doing research, New York to me still stands out as an important trailblazer, championing woman-friendly policies throughout history–apparently, so that other states might do even better under more hospitable conditions.
Here are 6 facts that show where New York and New York City have stood out in regards to gender equality, and what it means for American women.
1. The first and largest efforts for women’s suffrage were led in New York
In 1848, three hundred people attended the first convention to discuss women’s rights in Seneca Falls, New York. There, 69 women and 32 men signed the “Declaration of Sentiments” which included the first formal demand for women’s right to vote.
Though women in Wyoming were the first to gain this right in 1870, the suffrage movement roared on the loudest in New York City, which held the first suffrage parade in 1910 and the largest ever suffrage parade of 10,000 marchers in 1913. After many failures, New York became the first Eastern state to fully enfranchise women.
2. The largest female-led strike was in NYC, which improved worker conditions
In 1911, a terrible fire struck the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City, killing 146 workers–mostly women, including young teens. The result was the largest-yet female strike, which resulted in better protective legislation in New York and across the country. The American Society of Safety Engineers was founded later that year.
3. The movement for birth control began in New York City
Starting in 1914 in New York, political activists including Margaret Sanger began the movement campaigning to increase the availability of contraception through education and legislation. Sanger opened the first birth-control clinic in 1916, which was shut down promptly and followed by her arrest and conviction. After serving 30 days in jail, the New York Court of appeals decided to permit contraception if prescribed by doctors. She opened the second birth control clinic in 1923, the first legal clinic in the United States, by which the controversy had fizzled.
4. New York City has a unique Commission on Gender Equity
The first of its kind, this Commission advocates not just for women but for transgender and intersex people who may face discrimination in the workplace based on gender or sexual orientation. The goal is to make New York City more economically mobile and inclusive for women, girls, and nonbinary individuals.
5. New York has the best family leave policy in the country
In March of 2016, New York passed what is widely considered the best family leave policy in the country. The policy will allow both men and women a guaranteed 12 weeks of paid family leave for all full- and part-time employees working for a company at least 6 months starting in 2018.
Though great for both genders, this will be especially helpful to women who still tend to be primary caregivers for children or sick relatives. With the 12 weeks, women can devote much-needed time to family matters without the fear of losing their jobs or income.
6. New York still isn’t the best — but it’s close
In a 2015 ranking by WalletHub based on 11 key metrics ranging from executive pay gaps to unemployment rates, New York was number two out of 50, trailing only Hawaii. Unfortunately, 2016 saw that ranking drop from second to 16th, while Hawaii moved to #10 and Minnesota, Vermont and New Hampshire snagged the top three spots.
New York was ranked eleventh in economic and social well-being and the 5th in life expectancy at birth out of 50 states. That’s not the best, but it’s certainly not bad. And considering that New York is far larger and more diverse than many of the states that beat it out, combatting inequality is especially challenging.
According to another analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy, New York ranks #1 in work and family, 6th in employment and earning, 7th in reproductive rights, 12th in poverty and opportunity. Since this data is from 2011-2013, though, it’s certainly subject to change–hopefully in the right direction: upward and onward.