Utah Valley University’s Women & Leadership Project says women still need more representation in politics

University Marketing & Communications: Layton Shumway | 801-863-6863 | LShumway@uvu.edu

In the three years since Utah Valley University’s Utah Women & Leadership Project released its findings on women’s participation in multiple levels of politics, there has been progress in some areas, but there is still significant room for improvement.

Researchers for a new research and policy brief titled “The Status of Women in Utah Politics: A 2017 Update” analyzed the gender of those in Congress, statewide offices, state legislatures, city and county leadership positions, and local and state school boards. A majority of those positions are elected, while a few are appointed. Utah’s statistics in the various categories ranged from zero for statewide executive offices to 73 percent on the Utah State Board of Education. In most positions, however, Utah continues to rank below the national averages for women serving in elected political roles.

It may seem obvious, but in order to get elected to positions, women need to run for them. “National statistics have shown that women win elections at the same rate as men, but that fewer actually run,” the research brief says. “This is true both nationally and in Utah,” it continues. “This is one of many key challenges related to why Utah does not have more women serving in elected public office.”

The report’s authors, Dr. Susan R. Madsen, Orin R. Woodbury Professor of Leadership & Ethics at UVU, and research associate D. Candice Pierucci, identified reasons why fewer women run for elective office. They include societal attitudes, women’s aspirations and motivations, the lack of support and encouragement, unconscious gender socialization, differences in how candidates are treated, and a “Good Old Boys Network.”

“Utah residents, groups, organizations, and communities will benefit from having both men and women serve together in elected public offices,” the report states. “Vast research has found that the ‘tipping point’ is 30%, which means that to obtain the benefits outlined in the above brief, a leadership team, board, or political body, for example, needs to have 30% female representation.”

To overcome those concerns, the researchers suggested that children and youth be taught to become involved in their communities and that it is a civic responsibility to serve. Girls and women need help to understand the importance of running for office and have experiences that will increase their aspirations, including networking and mentorships. They can attend events around the state to help raise awareness of issue and help strengthen their confidence, aspirations, ambitions and motivations to lead.

Some more immediate solutions include have women attend their caucus nights and run for delegate positions, which helps them interact with others and network with elected leaders. They may also attend Real Women Run trainings and events, join the Women’s Leadership Institute’s Political Development Series or other training and development programs. In addition, those in leadership positions can strategically recruit more women for leadership roles.

The report quoted advice to women given by former Utah Representative Beverly White: “We won’t be hypocritical and say it will be easy. It won’t. It takes time, energy, funds and determination to be elected to any political office but if you have resources to give either in education or experience, you should be willing to share them and give to the office you choose your loyalty and dedication. The rewards are further education for you and a satisfaction only you can understand and appreciate and a public that will be well served by the devotion of women who are giving of their time and talents to make this a better world in which to live.”

The core mission of the Utah Women & Leadership Project at Utah Valley University is to strengthen the impact of Utah girls and women through informing, engaging, and developing their voices, confidence, influence, and leadership. This research and policy brief, along with other briefs and snapshots, can be found at http://www.uvu.edu/uwlp/research/briefs.html.

Fourth region (Section 1)