NEW! Aug. 30, 2015 Op-ed_ Some progress for Utah women, but much work remains _ The Salt Lake Tribune by Dr. Susan Madsen
Last fall when I heard the news Utah was named the worst state for women on the 24/7 Wall Street blog post The 10 Worst States for Women, I was alarmed—and angry! A few hours later, our chapter of WTS Advancing Women in Transportation was hosting dinner for the former transportation commissioner of New York City, Janette Sadik-Khan and her assistant and PR guy, Seth Solomonow (both now with Bloomberg Associates). When I brought up the news, they were also incensed, gritty New Yorkers that they are, and Seth whipped up a press release on his iPhone, having me call out Gov. Herbert to do something!
I decided first to see if/what Utah was doing and found out about the new Women in the Economy Commission, chaired by the late House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart and former House Democratic Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig. So, Utah’s on it— at least working to truly understand how women are faring in our economy and why. The Commission is now chaired by Rep. Becky Edwards and Rep. Rebecca-Chavez Houck. I had the opportunity to present to the Commission March 23, explaining the importance of women’s professional organizations for women in STEM careers typically dominated by men. I spoke about my organization, WTS, and the presidents of the Society of Women Engineers Greater Salt Lake Section and Women of Water also had an opportunity to speak. Several other officers were there to answer questions from the Commissioners. It was enlightening for them and we requested help with making membership in professional organizations more accessible for public employees. The Commission added that to their to-do list! Here’s our presentation.
Women are half the population — why isn’t half of the City Council or the State Legislature made up of women? There are groups now trying to answer and remedy that very question.
In January, I was fortunate to be invited to a lunchtime presentation by Chris Karpowitz, Associate Professor of Political Science at Brigham Young University. His book, co-written with Tali Mendelberg of Princeton University, reports their large-scale study to understand how the gender composition of legislative groups affects decisions and outcomes. “The Silent Sex: Gender, Deliberation, and Institutions,” explores the gender imbalance among decision-making bodies, why women tend not to speak up as much as men, and how and why men and women have different methods of providing input and making decisions.
And there’s compelling local research coming out of the Utah Women in Leadership Project at Utah Valley University, headed by Dr. Susan Madsen, professor of management in the Woodbury School of Business. I got to witness her energetic and inspirational speaking style at a Real Women Run® event in January.
Utah was the second state to give women the right to vote, and currently has a higher female voter turnout than male. And statistics show women win elections just as often men. Yet they don’t run as often. Why?
According to Utah Women in Leadership Project Research & Policy Brief No. 1 January 8, 2014:
1. Gender role socialization still plays a substantial role in whether individuals “self-identify with politics and express ambition to seek elected office.”
2. Women are more likely than men to struggle with envisioning themselves as leaders. If they do not see themselves as leaders and/or do not believe they can be leaders, they will not step forward to do so.
3. More women will run for office if others suggest they do so and provide support and encouragement.
Part of the purpose of the Utah Women in Leadership Project, which began in August 2013, is to conduct descriptive research on the status of women in top leadership positions within Utah and provide resources to help prepare and advance women for leadership within the state. The recent Research & Policy Brief No. 5, Jan. 12, 2015 asks Why Do We Need More Women Leaders in Utah?
“Women tend to exhibit different leadership characteristics and attributes than men. These are not necessarily better or worse, merely different. Sometimes male attributes are needed; sometimes female attributes are preferred, and often both sets of attributes can add value to a situation, strategy, or effort.”
The Utah Women in Leadership Project is one of many collaborators in the nonpartisan Real Women Run initiative, along with YWCA Utah, Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, Salt Lake Community College, Walker Institute of Politics at Weber State University, American Association of University Women, League of Women Voters of Utah, current and former elected female officials and representatives from political parties in Utah, and other organizations that support women. Names you’ll recognize on the organizing committee include: Sheryl Allen, Jackie Biskupski, and the late Deedee Corradini, among many influential women in politics and local business.
And what about women business leaders?
The new Women’s Leadership Institute of Utah just launched in January. Located at the Salt Lake Chamber, the organization is headed by former Utah Senator Pat Jones as CEO, and Trish Hatch, director. Its mission is to elevate the stature of female leadership by improving society’s understanding of the value of diversity in leadership roles, training women in leadership skills and conveying the positive impact female leaders have on economic development, vitality and the overall health of the state of Utah. Their work will included challenging businesses to facilitate change in their own organizations.
Female voices on the Salt Lake City Council
The City Council currently has two female council members out of seven, Erin Mendenhall and Lisa Ramsey Adams, whose terms began in January 2014. Previous to these two women, Jill Remington Love was the only woman on the Council for 12 years. Joanne Milner, Deeda Seed, Mary Mark, Nancy Saxton all served on the Council at various times from 1996-2008. Previous to that we had Alice Shearer, Sydney Reed Fonnesbeck, Ione Davis, Roselyn Kirk and Florence Bitner serving on the Council in the 1980s. Roselyn Kirk is the most recent woman to represent District 6—and that was from 1985-1996!
Let’s work on bringing a balanced Council back to Salt Lake City, where women and men both contribute their values to City discussions. My election would bring the percentage of females on the Council up to 43%!
Vote Tracey Harty for Salt Lake City Council District 6
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