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Research sheds light on current status of Utah women, girls

Young mother comforting her daughter outside at the park.
JoseManuel - stock.adobe.com
Young mother comforting her daughter outside at the park.

The Utah Women and Leadership Project has released an extensive collection of data to help inform Utahns about the lived experiences of women and girls in the state. One expert says it's proof that the time for change is now.

New research spotlights the status of women and girls in Utah, in five areas of focus.

At Utah State University, Susan Madsen, founding director of the Utah Women and Leadership Project, said that while Utah has high levels of female participation in volunteerism and voting, more can be done to increase the number of women in elected positions of power. None of Utah's congressional delegation is female, compared with almost 27% nationally.

Madsen said things won't improve unless bold and meaningful strides are made to achieve some changes.

"Generally speaking, it's been a real positive place to be in Utah for many reasons," she said, "yet it really is a challenging place for many - maybe not all, but for many women - because of the underlying sexism, because of the cultural issues that we've had."

Madsen said many of the challenges impede women from achieving professional goals, but others affect their personal lives.

The summary says women in Utah experience higher rates of sexual abuse and domestic violence than nationwide, and calls for increased access to crisis services and more support for single mothers. It makes specific recommendations in five categories, and also calls on men to become more engaged.

Madsen said the State of Utah has the potential to change and improve, and added that in 2024, more and more people are ready for that change - including men. But the research found Utah men are generally less aware of gender bias than their global counterparts.

Madsen said there is a need for lots of learning, especially among state policymakers.

"There is this surface level of support, which is great," she said. "I mean, we want that, right? But those other layers of support and understanding, and compassion - and then getting to empathy and passion to be involved, even if it's not our own experiences - are going to be really important as we move forward in the state of Utah."

She said one way to get involved is by joining her organization's initiative, called 'A Bolder Way Forward.' She added that while the needle has been moved slightly in recent years, on the state's current trajectory, it could take from two to four decades for notable progress for women and girls.