The fight for women’s equality is an ongoing battle. From challenging laws that limit bodily autonomy to demanding representation in the boardroom, it is a new day for those who have been marginalized for so long.

But while the nation has come a long way in providing women with the same rights and liberties afforded to men, society still has a ways to go. That point is illustrated in the Equal Rights Advocates' (ERA) recent national survey of more than 600 women that found nearly half of respondents left or reduced hours at their job due to shifts in childcare since March of 2020. Furthermore, fifty percent of Black and Latinx women disclosed that they are struggling to make ends meet. 

Commitments to family and caretaking responsibilities has brought on debt and consequently knocked Black and Latinx women down the ladder of financial stability. As employment opportunities decline, ERA found Black and Latinx family breadwinners are also experiencing discrimination at work.

The reality helps explain why a new analysis from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found an increase in self-employment, specifically among Black and Latinx women. “This is being credited to the childcare worker shortage, and that this lack of childcare is forcing women—particularly Black and Latinx women—out of their payroll jobs into self-employment,” says a statement from the ERA. “This research echoes Equal Rights Advocates’ recent national survey showing that women are falling behind because of increased childcare responsibilities and debt, exacerbated by the pandemic.”

Though COVID has exasperated issues in the country’s workforce, America has never been the poster child for egalitarianism. According to WalletHub, the U.S. ranks 27th, as the best country for gender equality. The personal-finance website recently released its report on 2022’s Best & Worst States for Women's Equality. Some of the best states include New Mexico, Nevada, California and New York. Among the worst are Oklahoma, Idaho, Georgia and Utah. 

In every state, women earn less than men. According to the WalletHub analysis, Connecticut has the lowest gap, with women earning 3.00 percent less, whereas Utah has the highest, 27.30 percent.  And in nearly every state legislature, male lawmakers outnumber their female counterparts. Nevada has the highest gap favoring women, with 42.31 percent more women. West Virginia has the highest gap favoring men, with 84.48 percent more men.

“The workplace provides even more evidence of inequality,” the study notes. “Despite their advances toward social equality, women are disproportionately underrepresented in leadership positions.”

While the way forward feels arduous, WalletHub-tapped expert Seulgie Lim, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor with the Department of Politics at Bates College says the first step toward women’s equality is recognizing the gender and racial biases that are deeply embedded within the country's health care system. 

“We must first recognize that as objective science can be, it can also very much be, and has been, biased - facts that have been proven by the forced sterilization of Black and Indigenous women and the Tuskegee study,” says Lim. “The recognition and acknowledgment of this history of gender and race biases and discrimination is the first step, which will hopefully be followed by slow but incremental changes in the health care system that recognizes disenfranchised patients (who are often women and people of color) and how they are persistently kept at the bottom of the system to the benefit of others.”