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Maryland ranks No. 1 in work opportunities for moms, near last in work-life balance

When it comes to working moms, Maryland is a state that presents something of a paradox, at least according to a recent ranking of the best and worst states for working moms by financial website WalletHub.com.

Overall, Maryland was ranked No. 12, tied with Connecticut, with Vermont taking first place and Louisiana taking last, or 51st place — Washington, D.C., was also counted.

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The rankings were based on metrics divided into three categories: Child Care, Professional Opportunities and Work-Life Balance. That last measure is the interesting one for the Maryland data, which was pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources.

While Maryland ranked No. 10 on child care, and No. 1 in professional opportunities, the state was 50th, next to last, on work-life balance.

The key to understanding the apparent paradox in the Maryland data might be in the state's geography, WalletHub spokeswoman Jill Gonzales said.

While Maryland women have excellent professional opportunities as evidenced by metrics such as the third-lowest gender pay gap — women in Maryland earn on average 86 percent what men do, according to Gonzales, while women in West Virginia earn 70 percent of what men earn — they also spend an average of 31 minutes, one way, commuting from their homes to urban centers that offer such salaries.

"Commute times, that's just adding on to the time women spend away from family," Gonzales said. "Maryland came in very last for [commute times] — it beat out D.C., New York and New Jersey."

Women's workdays in Maryland were also the fourth-longest in the study, an average of just over eight hours a day, Gonzales said.

"Just for comparison sake, when we look at Utah, Rhode Island, Idaho — the ones with the lowest average workday — they averaged 6.5 hours."

At the same time, Gonzales said, there is a probable correlation between hours worked and other professional opportunities, as those states with the shortest working hours for working moms also had some of the lowest scores in terms of opportunities for women in the workforce. Utah ranked No. 41 in that category and Rhode Island, though third in work-life balance, was No. 32 in professional opportunities.

Looking at the data set for all 50 states and Washington brings a lot of surprises, Gonzales said, and a lack of patterns across the country might well indicate that the work environment for women and mothers is determined everywhere by extremely local factors.

"There is really no trend here. It's just so nonuniform," she said. "I think one of the most surprising facts for me is that a state like Alabama, which ranked in the bottom overall, they actually have the highest ratio of female-to-male executives. … When you think Alabama, that's not what you think."

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