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Maryland Women Are Tops for Economic Autonomy, Earnings, Report Says

Correction

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the percentage of women-owned businesses in Maryland. The report by the Institute for Women's Policy Research said that 29 percent of the businesses in the state were owned by women, the third-highest rate in the nation.

By Christina Cepero
Capital News Service
Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2004; corrected Nov. 23, 2004

WASHINGTON - Maryland is first in the nation when it comes to women's social and economic autonomy and second in their employment and earnings, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report by the Institute for Women's Policy Research also said Maryland finished in the top third of states when it came to political participation and reproductive rights.

But the state got a grade of C for health and well-being, the fifth and final category rated by the Status of Women in the States report. That grade likely kept Maryland from being one of the top states for women overall, said institute President Heidi Hartmann.

Still, the president of the Women Legislators of Maryland welcomed the results of the report, which has been released every two years since 1996.

"It's nice to be able to have a comparison of how you're doing, to be able to go back and look at it again," said Delegate Jean Cryor, R-Montgomery, the women's caucus leader.

"I'm interested in how they're (women) doing economically, in education. What are their lives like?" Cryor said. "Maryland is a state that is light years ahead of other states in many ways."

But the state fell short in the health and well-being of women. Despite the fact that 87 percent of women in the state have health insurance -- good for 18th in the nation -- Maryland was dragged down by high rates of diseases inflicting women.

Maryland had the 42nd-worst breast cancer mortality rate, 39th-worst lung cancer mortality, 32nd-worst heart disease mortality and 29th-worst diabetes rates. The state was 14th-best when it came to mental health and finished fifth on suicides.

The worst score came in the incidence of AIDS: Maryland was 49th, finishing ahead of only New York state and the District of Columbia. Cryor said the state's high rate of AIDS cases may be due to the fact that Maryland does a good job of publicizing and diagnosing the disease.

"Maybe some states don't recognize it," she said. "Other than being a minus, it could be a plus in that Maryland is recognizing this. It's the same old story of being willing to look at what the situation is, as opposed to hiding from it."

African-American women were carrying the brunt of the AIDS cases in the state, with a rate of 68.2 cases per 100,000 women, well above the national average of 49 cases. C. Nicole Mason, executive director of the National Women's Alliance, said that although AIDS education has increased across the country, black women have not been targeted and this is reflected in the research.

Otherwise, the state did relatively well in the report. Among its findings:

Women's groups praised Maryland's standing, but said there is room for improvement.

"It's impressive that Maryland and the District of Columbia have been so successful in advancing issues that are of concern to women and that benefit women's economic and social well-being," said Allison Kimmich, executive director of the National Association of Women's Studies. "At the same time . . . there's always more that we can be doing as a country and as individual states for the rights of women."

Cryor said the report would not be the last word on women's issues but could be the start of a discussion.

"Certainly we will look at it," she said. "It may well be that legislation would come out of it."

Copyright 2004 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism


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