UWLP Publishes Research Summaries on Utahns’ Perceptions of Women, Girls

The Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) researchers conducted a statewide study the fall of 2023 to establish a baseline of public perceptions related to the awareness, under-standing, and attitudes around challenges that Utah women and girls face. The survey focused on the following areas: education, community engagement, safety and security, health and wellbeing, and the workplace.

An 80-item survey was created based on existing literature and survey instruments, guidance from experts, and the baseline data needed by A Bolder Way Forward leaders in each of the areas of focus. Over the next months, 19 research summaries will be published to provide Utah leaders and residents with insights into Utahns’ current perceptions.

Data were collected for this research study from October 24 to November 30, 2023, and all Utahns aged 18 or older were considered potential participants. With data from 2 samples, a total of 3,505 Utahns participated. Today, UWLP published the first three research summaries: Childcare and Pre-K Programs, Child Sexual Abuse, and the Gender Pay Gap.

The following are highlights of the three research summaries that will be used to set goals and metrics for A Bolder Way Forward.

Childcare and Pre-K Programs

Through the years, childcare for Utah families has been viewed as a “private” instead of a “public” issue, but Utahns’ perspectives have changed. According to this research, most understand and believe at some level that childcare is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Survey results included:

  • 1,396 Utahns selected “strongly agree,” and another 1,265 either “somewhat agree” or “agree” that access to childcare is an issue that families face in Utah.
  • 70.7% of respondents acknowledged at some level that childcare providers are professionals.
  • Most study respondents believe that childcare and pre-K programs are important in a child’s early education.
  • Most participants believe that government has a role in addressing childcare challenges in Utah.

“If we want to help more Utah women and their families thrive, the challenges around childcare affordability, access, and quality demand greater attention,” said Susan Madsen, Karen Haight Huntsman Endowed Professor of Leadership in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University, founder and director of UWLP, and author of the research summaries.

Child Sexual Abuse

According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data, the “prevalence of sexual child abuse in Utah is higher than nationally (13.9% or ~1 in 7 vs 11.6% or ~1 in 9).”

Survey results indicated the following:

  • 40.8% of respondents disagreed that child sexual abuse is a problem in Utah, while 24.6% were neutral.
  • 46.8% agreed at some level that child sexual abuse is preventable.
  • 48.1% agreed that Utah’s prevalence of child sexual abuse may be higher than national levels.
  • 35.8% agreed at some level that most of the child sexual abuse is perpetrated by another minor or peer.

"Through the years, child sexual abuse has seldom been discussed openly, but Utahns’ perspectives are finally shifting,” said Madsen. “Utah’s challenges with child sexual abuse must be addressed immediately. We must raise awareness and take action to protect Utah’s children!”

Gender Pay Gap

Madsen said that for years the Utah’s gender pay gap has been a frequent topic covered in the news media and discussed among women and top business leaders around the state. Yet, the topic has been excused and dismissed by many Utah decision makers.

Newly released findings include:

  • 84.1% of respondents agreed at some level that a pay gap exists in Utah.
  • 62.1% of study participants agreed at some level that Utah women make less money than their male counterparts even when they have the same/similar experience, education, and position. Only 18.1% disagreed, while the others were unsure.
  • 71.7% of Utahns disagreed that Utah’s pay gap exists because of women’s own choices (e.g., career breaks, educational choices, lack of experience, job industry).
  • 84.6% of respondents agreed at some level that Utah leaders should take action to close the gender pay gap.

“This research has found that Utahns’ perspectives are clear – there is wide recognition that there is not only a pay gap, but that Utah leaders need to address it. The negative impact of the gender pay gap on Utah women and families has been well-documented. It’s time to act now!”


For the eighth year in a row, WalletHub has named Utah as the worst state in the nation for women’s equality.  The overarching of A Bolder Way Forward is to help more Utah girls, women, and families thrive. “When we strengthen the impact of Utah girls and women, we strengthen everyone,” said Madsen.

View the full research summaries here.

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