Although Utah has a rich heritage of women’s involvement in voting, advocacy, and various types of political participation, for decades Utah has lagged behind most states in terms of women running for and serving in elected political roles. To track progress, the Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) began reporting on the status of women in Utah politics in 2014, with updates in 2017, 2021, 2022, and now 2023. Although strides have been made in increasing the number of women serving in political roles in recent years, there is still work to be done. Research continues to confirm that when both men and women serve together in communities, counties, and states, all residents are better served and are more likely to thrive.
This report updates the research and policy brief titled “The Status of Women in Utah Politics: A 2022 Update” and provides both Utah and national data for the following seven areas: Congress, statewide executive offices, state legislatures, counties, mayors, city councils, and boards of education. The brief concludes with a summary of findings and a brief discussion of why more women do not run for public office.
- National: At the national level, women hold 27.9% of seats in the 118th US Congress. In the US Senate, 25% of the seats are held by women. In the US House of Representatives, a record 28.5% of seats are held by women.
- Utah: Utah has six seats in its national delegation, two senators and four representatives. None of Utah’s congressional seats are currently held by women. Only four Utah women have served in Congress since Utah’s statehood in 1896.
Statewide Executive Offices
- National: At the national level, 2023 data show that women now hold 30.3% (94 of 310) of the statewide executive offices, one more than in our last brief.
- Utah: There is currently one woman serving in Utah Statewide Executive Office (SEO), as Deidre Henderson won the 2020 election for lieutenant governor.
- National: According to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers, a record-breaking 2,416 women are serving in state legislatures in 2023 (119 added since the last brief).
- Utah: In 2023, Utah was ranked 40th in the nation in terms of women serving in the state legislature, a ranking that fell from 32nd in 2020.
County government also plays an important organizational role in the state. Overall, the legislative bodies of county commissions and councils in Utah are overwhelmingly held by men (79.3%), while 53.4% of the predominately full-time elected positions of clerk/auditor, treasurer, recorder, and assessor are held by women.
- Nation: According to the National Foundation for Women Legislators, the number of women serving as mayors, city councilors, and county commissioners is slightly on the rise. As of August 2022, the percentage of female mayors of cities with a population of at least 30,000 increased to 26.0%, a 4.0% increase since 2019.
- Utah: No municipal elections were held in 2022, so data for the Mayor and City Councils sections remain the same as our 2022 update. Of the 252 municipalities in Utah, 60 have women mayors (23.8%), reflecting a 6.5% increase from the 17.3% reported in 2021.
The 2022 analysis showed that 106 councils in Utah have one woman serving, 73 have two women, 28 have three, and none have all seats held by women. Overall, 29.8% of all council members in Utah municipalities are female, which puts Utah below the national average of data gathered historically.
Boards of Education
In 2017, 73.3% State Board of Education elected seats in Utah were held by women; thus, Utah ranked among the highest states nationally. However, by 2023 that number declined slightly to 66.7%. Currently, the Utah State Charter School Board of Education has 71.4% seats held by women, but these positions are appointed.
Overall, these results show some progress in more women serving in public office. Yet, there is still work to be done. Here is a summary of these findings:
- US Congress: 0.0% of the Utah delegation to Congress is female, compared to 27.9% nationally.
- SEO: 20.0% of the Utah SEO seats are held by women, compared to 30.3% nationally.
- State Legislature: 26.0% of Utah State legislators are women, compared to 32.7% nationally.
- Counties: 20.7% of Utah county commission and council seats are held by women, compared to 38.8% of the predominately full-time elected positions of clerk/auditor, treasurer, recorder, assessor, attorney, surveyor, and sheriff.
- Mayors: 23.8% of Utah mayors are now women, which is a 6.5% increase from 2021 and a 14.7% increase from 2017. More of Utah’s larger cities are being led by women (up to 13 from 3 in 2017).
- City Councils: 29.8% of council members in Utah municipalities are female, which puts Utah below the national average of 32.0%.
- Boards of Education: Utah is at least average, if not slightly above, the national average for women holding district board seats.
The last few years have been record-setting years for women running for office across the country, and we are seeing some slight progress in Utah as well. When more women run, more women win. Through the years, the lack of women running for office has been one of many challenges related to why Utah does not have more women serving in elected public office. While we believe the tide is turning, understanding and removing the barriers women face when running for public office in Utah are critical to moving forward. In other UWLP reports, we have explored several factors accounting for why more women do not run for office, including societal attitudes, poor treatment of female candidates who do run, biases in party politics toward traditional practices that keep women from running and networking, and the way women are treated by the media (see “An Analysis of Utah Media: Women & Politics”). For recommendations on how to move the needle in Utah so that more women will run and serve in these roles, see this 2021 brief, “Perceptions of Women Elected Officials in Utah: Challenges, Benefits, and Lessons Learned,” as well as other UWLP research and policy briefs, snapshots, and resources.
This brief has summarized available research on the status of women in Utah politics. It provides a detailed look at the past and current state of affairs and, as with the previous briefs, should be beneficial as a benchmark for measuring improvement in years to come. It was also written as a call to action for Utah residents and leaders to do more to encourage and support future efforts to diversify voices on Utah’s Capitol Hill and in cities, towns, and counties around the state. Although there has been some progress in recent years, we encourage Utah leaders and residents to do more to implement and support these efforts.
To learn more about the status of women in Utah politics, read the full brief.