The Status of Women on Utah State Boards and Commissions: A 2019 Update

In 2016, the Utah Women & Leadership Project published a research and policy brief titled “The Status of Women on Utah State Boards & Commissions.” It provided useful data to individuals, groups, organizations, and communities working toward improving the equality and impact of girls and women throughout the state. This 2019 update compares the current status of women on Utah state boards and commissions to the research conducted in 2016 and to the latest national statistics.

Utah Data

There are currently 368 Utah state boards and commissions listed as “active,” of which 345 board member listings were located. Hence, there are 3,045 members on the 345 boards or commissions, with 2,050 (67.3%) men and 995 (32.7%) women currently serving. Overall, this is a slight increase of 4.6% from 2016 in terms of the number of seats filled by women. Unfortunately, comparable national data are not available. However, in 2016, one study did report that women constituted 41.9% of top appointed advisory positions to US governors. According to a few 2016 reports, Connecticut, North Dakota, and Texas exceeded 40% female representation on state boards, while Idaho and Alaska surpassed 30%. Importantly, although the majority of Utah state boards and commissions are made up of governor-appointed seats (application and/or approval of the governor or a representative of the governor), some are filled by elective position (e.g., state attorney general). These special membership requirements, including those in which a Code calls for representation by an elected official or specific agency executive, are mandated by state law and have limited representation from the general public.

Recommendations

Diversity and quality are not mutually exclusive. With even slightly more effort by the state, legislators, and the citizenry of Utah, gender diversity on boards and commissions can exist while simultaneously maintaining high standards and quality. The following five recommendations can lead to positive change that will benefit Utah and its residents:

  1. State agencies and divisions remain integral to supporting gender diversity.
  2. States with legislation encouraging female appointments have a 10% higher rate of women on boards than those without such legislation.
  3. The state of Utah and its agencies and divisions can incorporate quality unconscious bias training for individuals and committees that oversee board appointments.
  4. More Utah women can apply for board and commission openings, and more Utahns can nominate women for open seats.
  5. State government agencies and divisions can curb the negative effects of conscious and unconscious bias by collecting, analyzing, and publishing data on board diversity, including obstacles interfering with the ability of some female appointees to remain on board for the full term.

To learn more about The Status of Women on Utah State Boards and Commissions: A 2019 Update read the entire brief.

Check out some of our other posts

January 2022 Newsletter

The January 2022 Newsletter for the Utah Women & Leadership Project highlights new resources released, editorials, and announcements about women's groups and partnerships.

Sexist Comments & Responses: Objectification

In this study, the “Objectification” theme included comments in which women were viewed or treated more as objects than as human beings. Speaking up against sexism can be a powerful tool for reducing gender inequity.