Utah has made slight progress in the number of women in politics over the past two years, but a new study says there’s still work to be done.
For example, after a steady decline since 2009, the number of women in the Utah state legislature increased by almost 4 percent last year, to 19 percent. Nationally, the average state house is about 25 percent female.
These numbers are part of an updated study called the “Status of Women in Utah Politics” co-authored by Utah Valley University professor Susan Madsen.
“In most areas we're still below [the national average]," says Madsen. "So in the state executive office—we are zero percent of our state executive offices compared to around 23 percent nationally."
One area where Utah does rank close to the national average is on boards of education. Utah is at 73 percent compared to 50 percent nationally for women in educational leadership.
Madsen says it doesn’t take much to catch up to the national average. The re-election of Mia Love to Utah’s fourth congressional district last year, one of six federal seats, put Utah’s national delegation at 16 percent female.
"In the state of Utah, we need to raise the aspiration of girls and women to lead,” she says. "We just don’t have girls and women thinking that they should or could be leaders, and that’s just hogwash.”
Madsen says women win elections at the same rate as men, but fewer run because they feel uncomfortable or unqualified.
She started the Utah Women and Leadership Project in 2013 to conduct research and spearhead events focused on getting more women to run for public office. She says they want to encourage more women to attend caucus meetings, run for delegate positions and pay more attention to politics.