Women’s Equality in Utah: Why Utah Is Ranked as the Worst State, and What Can Be Done

For the fourth year in a row, WalletHub has named Utah as the worst state in the nation for women’s equality in their report “2021’s Best & Worst States for Women’s Equality,” released August 23, 2021. To ascertain where women receive the most equal treatment, WalletHub’s analysis compared the 50 states across 17 key indicators of women’s equality. The indicators ranged from the gap between the number of female and male executives, to the disparity in unemployment rates for women and men, to gender differences in education and health.

Yet, research continues to show that organizations and entities will increasingly thrive when both men and women hold leadership roles and are provided equitable opportunities and access to resources. Gender inclusivity benefits not only businesses, but also entities such as churches, state legislatures, city councils, the state government, and society at large. Studies show that there are numerous benefits to attracting, retaining, promoting, and empowering women within organizations and entities. In fact, this topic is central to current discussions around meeting the current and future needs of Utah’s thriving economy. And, more generally, the United Nations continues to report that gender equality is “critical to all areas of a healthy society, from reducing poverty to promoting the health, education, protection and the well-being of girls and boys.” When focused specifically on the most recent WalletHub report and rankings, the questions then become:

  1. What are the specific metrics that WalletHub uses for their state-by-state rankings?
  2. What do these metrics tell us about Utah women?
  3. What can Utah decision makers and residents do to improve women’s equality in Utah?

The purpose of this white paper is to provide a deeper analysis of these questions to understand why Utah was ranked last—yet again—in the WalletHub study, and what Utahns can do to shift the following aspects: the negative national rankings of women’s equality in the state, the harmful perceptions that abound related to Utah not being a good place for women, and Utah women’s lived experiences in terms of gender inequality. Frankly, improving this ranking is merely a proxy for addressing critical disparities and inequities in the state. To explore the three questions and gain a deeper understanding of each key indicator, we attempted to locate the original WalletHub data sources to conduct our own analysis. And, in a few cases, we were able to locate more current data.

Workplace Environment Recommendations

  1. Raise the minimum wage by $2.00.
  2. Increase the number of women who earn over $100,000 by 3,700.
  3. Add 780 women to executive positions within the state.
  4. Find solutions to shift more women out of minimum wage jobs.
  5. Find jobs for 686 women to reduce the unemployment rate by 0.1%.
  6. Add 1,000 additional women-owned business in Utah.
  7. Support female employees by creating flexile and family-friendly policies.
  8. Continue efforts regarding job security metrics.
  9. Focus on economic security for Utah women.
  10. Reduce the disparity between men and women in poverty by 0.4%.

Education & Health Recommendations

  1. Increase the percentage of Utah women completing graduate degree programs.
  2. Shrink the disparity in math scores by one point.
  3. Reduce the disparity related to Utah women’s perceptions of the affordability of doctor visits by 50%.

Political Empowerment Recommendations

  1. Elect a woman for one of the two seats in the U.S. Senate.
  2. Elect women for two of four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  3. Elect 7 additional women to the Utah House and Senate.
  4. Elect 1 additional woman to a statewide executive office.

Conclusion

The purpose of this white paper is to explore what Utahns can do to shift the negative national rankings of women’s equality in the state, the harmful perceptions that abound related to Utah not being a good place for women, and Utah women’s lived experiences in terms of gender inequality.

Importantly, reports like this highlight a critical dilemma that is often the elephant in the room. Yes, Utah ranks as the worst state in the nation for women’s equality, measured by WalletHub metrics. And scores of some of these metrics may directly or indirectly link to the fact that more than 60% of Utah residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Clearly, the division of effort and focus on the family continues to influence the decisions of many Utah residents and most likely impacts how Utah scores on several of the metrics measured in the WalletHub survey. WalletHub’s ranking system did not include other potential equality metrics that could shed a more positive light on Utah women’s important contributions in the home, community, and beyond. Yet, it remains clear that for more of Utah’s women to thrive, gender inequality needs to be tackled.

The questions then become: Can Utah create a unique path forward that will improve gender equity and equality, while also respecting the circumstances and choices of women and families? And, if so, what might that distinctive path forward look like? Although this report looks specifically at the WalletHub metrics, there may be other metrics to consider as well. Again, shifting the ranking simply serves as a proxy for making meaningful changes in the state so that all women—and Utahns as a whole—can experience equitable access to opportunities of all kinds that will help them better thrive. As Utah decision makers and residents join to find ways to strengthen the impact of girls and women more effectively, more Utah women and families will feel connected to our state’s well-known mantra—“This Is the Place.”

To learn more about women's equality in Utah, read the full white paper.

Check out some of our other posts

The Status of Utah Hispanic or Latina Women

Utahns can increase equity and equality within the state by utilizing data to recognize the impact of gender and race in our everyday lives. The state can use these data to better utilize the talents, ideas, and resources that Latina women have to offer t...

June 2022 Newsletter

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

Utah Women and Stem: A 2022 Update

Utah needs significant investment into efforts that encourage and mentor Utah girls and young women to pursue STEM education and careers, and industries must continue to improve the corporate climate to attract and retain women in STEM fields.