A Bolder Way Forward
National and statewide studies continue to show that women and girls in Utah are not thriving in critical areas. Year after year, Utah continues to have high levels of domestic violence, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, and gender-based discrimination, while also ranking as the worst state for women’s equality and having low levels of women’s leadership representation in nearly all domains, including politics and business. Although the needle has moved slightly in a few areas, with its current trajectory it will take two, three, or even four decades to make notable progress. It is time for Utah to embrace
A Bolder Way Forward (BWF). When we lift Utah girls and women, we lift all Utahns!
For a more in-depth overview of the Bolder Way Forward, watch the 30-minute video presentation to the right, and then review this 3-page framework document.
The overarching goal of the BWF is to make Utah a place where more girls and women can thrive in any setting (e.g., home, workplace, congregation, and community). If we are serious about ensuring that Utah women and girls thrive, we need to create change by 2030, with a check point in 2026. Although there is not one metric that can assess and measure this overarching goal, the UWLP will work with the leaders of 18 areas of focus to craft 2026 and 2030 goals, with all being linked to measurable outcomes. To do this, UWLP will upscale our work in locating and tracking national and state data that can be regularly updated in visual dashboards and reports to show progress over time. Using the BWF framework, we believe that Utah can become a national leader in how to implement positive change for women and girls.
The BWF will utilize systems thinking, which is that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Systems are made of interrelated, interdependent parts, but they cannot be understood as a function of isolated components. Although each part needs to be working well, a system cannot be understood only by focusing on what each part is doing. It needs to consider the relationships among the parts so that all work together in more powerful ways. In Utah, we have been working on related efforts for the decades using the “parts” strategy, but not moving together as a system. To learn more about using systems thinking for societal change, read “How Change Happens: Why Some Social Movements Succeed While Others Don’t.”
The UWLP’s primary aim is to be a vehicle of change for Utah women and girls. We can conceptualize how this vehicle will move up a paved road using the metaphor of a wheel (see photo to the right).
- Road: The road is uphill, and there are currently lots of potholes. Many individuals and groups provide programs, efforts, and initiatives that assist in making the road smoother.
- Wheel: The wheel is the “system” or vehicle of change with the BWF.
- Hub: The UWLP serves as the central coordinator, or “backbone organization,” that holds the spokes together, while continuing to produce and offer quality research, powerful resources, and strategic and partnered convenings.
- Spokes: Each spoke, a key area where change needs to occur, is also a movement with a coalition that functions to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
- Rims: There are issues that permeate across and influence each spoke that will need deeper research and resources, and the UWLP will provide insights on these that can be used to continue the work going on in the spokes: confidence, sexism, identity (e.g., race/ethnicity, LGBTQ+, disability, age, socioeconomic, religion), culture, and male allyship.
As the hub, the UWLP would lead from the middle and focus on helping the various spokes work in alignment. This systems approach is based on “networked leadership” where strategic partnerships and alliances across sectors are critical for change. To implement the strategies each spoke uses, there will need to be a mix of tools, including, but not limited to research, resources, public policy, grassroot involvement efforts, training and education, advocacy, messaging shifts, mentoring/sponsorship initiatives, networking, and philanthropy.
Utah must do better to ensure everyone thrives. Melinda Gates once stated, “If you want to lift up humanity, empower women. It is the most comprehensive, pervasive, high-leverage investment you can make in human beings.” Our vision is not to lift girls and women at the expense of boys and men—that is the scarcity mentality. Instead, we believe that there is enough for everyone through cooperation and collaboration: the abundance mentality. When we strengthen the impact of Utah girls and women, we can strengthen everyone!