CEDAR CITY – Women in Utah make up more than 50 percent of the population yet when it comes to politics, the numbers show there is a gender gap.
Real Women Run is hosting an event Saturday for community members in Washington, Iron and Kane counties aimed at helping women get more involved in politics as candidates, campaign managers or volunteers.
Real Women Run is a collaborative nonpartisan initiative to empower women to participate in public life and civic leadership.
The event is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce, 136 No. 100 East in St. George, and will include speakers from across Southern Utah.
“So many women feel powerless and they want to get involved but don’t know how,” Dorothy Engelman, executive director of the Erin Kimball Foundation, said. “We want to help them find positions that are empowering and help them have a say in their communities.”
New research from the Utah Women and Leadership Project indicates women in politics are in a better position now than they were three years ago.
Until 2017, the total number of women serving in Utah’s state legislature had seen an aggressive decline since 2009. According to the leadership project, women only make up 19 percent of the legislature ranking the state 43rd in the nation.
Three years ago, however, that same number showed Utah at 46th. The improvement came in 2017 when a senate and two additional seats in the Utah House of Representatives were filled by women.
Female numbers in Utah’s congressional delegation fare even worse with the 2014 win of Mia Love, who represents Utah’s 4th congressional district, being the first Utah woman elected to Congress since 1995 – only the fourth since Utah gained statehood. No women from Utah have ever been elected to serve in the U.S. Senate.
When it comes to Utah’s statewide executive offices, no female candidates were nominated in 2016 – from either party.
Of Utah’s 242 municipalities, only 22 have female mayors with only three of those representing cities with populations of 30,000 or more, according to the research.
Utah also places below the national average in the percentage of women serving on city councils, at just 24 percent.
In addition, there are only three women filling any of the 69 county commission seats in Utah.
While women in Utah have made some great strides in recent years, they still have some work to do, Shirlayne Quayle, co-founder and board chair of the Women’s Influence Center, said.
Real Women Run was founded in 2011 and is a collaborative nonpartisan initiative working to change these numbers by getting women involved in their communities, politics and leadership roles.
“Research has shown that society benefits from multiple perspectives,” Quayle said. “It’s one of the reasons why it’s so important for women to get involved in their communities and in political office because they offer a diverse and different perspective that everyone benefits from.”
Saturday’s training is being held in Southern Utah for the first time and while getting involved in politics is largely the focus, it is also about teaching women how to have a voice and empowering them to use it, Quayle said.
“We purposely made this event a little different than the ones up north hoping to raise awareness and find ways for women to learn how to have a voice,” Quayle said. “We hope that this event sparks a light in those who attend and they begin to explore ways of getting involved in their communities whether that be politics or sitting on boards or volunteering.”
The event is an opportunity for women and men to join a conversation, Quayle added, while also getting practical training from experienced female leaders on various topics. Some of the issues that will be discussed include getting involved in public service, navigating barriers and opportunities to community engagement, and shedding light on what it is like to be in elected office and other leadership positions.
Speakers include Utah Reps. Christine Watkins and Becky Edwards, St. George Councilwoman Bette Arial, Janice Brooks, Nina Barnes, Dorothy Engelman and more.
- When: Saturday, April 11.
- Where: St. George Chamber of Commerce, 136 North 100 East in St. George.
- When: 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- What: Discussion on empowering power to get involved in their communities and in politics.
- How: Register online at Real Women Run
- Cost: $15 includes lunch.
The event is made possible in partnership with YWCA Utah, AAUW Utah, St George Area Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Influence Center, Institute of Politics & Public Affairs at Dixie State University, The Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service at Southern Utah University, and AAUW-St. George, Utah branch.
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