Feb 17, 2023 - News

Utah's wide gender gap shows in politics, wages

Female representation in <span style="color: #6533ff">Utah government</span> compared to <span style="color: #ffa515">U.S. average</span>
Data: Utah Women & Leadership Project; Chart: Rahul Mukherjee/Axios

Utah's female representation in Congress, the Legislature and the executive branch lags behind the rest of the nation, according to new research released Wednesday.

By the numbers: The report by Utah State University's Utah Women & Leadership Project found the Beehive State ranks 40th for the number of women serving in the state Legislature.

  • Women hold 26% of Utah's legislative seats, compared to the national average of 32.7%, per the report.
  • Only one woman, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, serves in the state's five-member executive branch.
  • Researchers also noted that all of Utah's six congressional seats are held by men.

The big picture: As a record number of American women run for office or get elected, Susan Madsen, founding director of UWLP, told Axios that Utah has a long way to go in terms of gender representation.

  • Women in Utah also face a wider wage gap than the rest of the country, per the Utah Department of Workforce Services. Women working full time in the state earn 72% of what their male counterparts earn — 9% lower than the national average.

What they're saying: "Men just don't represent all of Utah," Madsen said. "We need more equal numbers of women there to really represent Utah. The decision-making is better when you have men and women in more equal numbers."

  • She said girls and women have been socialized to believe serving in public office "is not their place," particularly in cultures where conservatism and religion dominate.
  • Madsen added that women in politics face different pressures than men, such as sexism and questions around balancing their careers and motherhood.

Yes, but: Madsen said the number of Utah women elected on the municipal level is steadily increasing.

  • Since 2022, nearly a quarter of Utah mayors are women, a 14.7% increase from 2017, according to the report.
  • Most of Utah's female mayors serve in cities with a population of less than 10,000 people.

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