UWLP Study Highlights Top Opportunities for Utah Girls and Women

National and statewide studies continue to show that Utah women and girls are not thriving in many critical areas. Committed to finding solutions, the Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) wanted to better understand Utahns’ perceptions regarding opportunities for women and girls in the state.

To assist with this, UWLP researchers collected data from 3,505 Utah men and women ages 18 and older in the fall of 2023. The 80-question survey was based on existing literature and survey instruments, guidance from experts, and baseline data needed by leaders of A Bolder Way Forward (BWF), an initiative that invites Utahns to break down the barriers that keep women and girls from thriving. The data were then compiled into a report summarizing the findings, co-authored by Susan Madsen, UWLP’s founding director, and April Townsend.

Madsen said the report’s purpose is two-fold. “By examining the opportunities identified in the study, we hope to focus our efforts and resources to expand them. We also hope to help mitigate the negative impacts of the challenges they shared.”

Madsen said at the end of the survey, 2,433 participants answered an open-ended question to share their perceptions of the most significant opportunities for Utah women and girls. Below are the top seven categories.

1) Work and Employment Options – The most cited opportunity for Utah women and girls was related to work and employment (37.8%). Respondents called for more employers in Utah to adopt family-friendly policies to better support parents and offer parental leave, scheduling flexibility, equal access to advancement and higher paying jobs, and on-site childcare. One person commented, “If the state wants more women in the workforce, they must invest in better childcare. It’s not just a women’s problem – it’s a family problem.”

2) Education and Training – Many supported females pursuing formal education and training (33.7%) and called for help accessing financial assistance or low-cost/free tuition. One respondent said, “Higher education has never been more accessible, and women are outpacing men in enrollment nationally.”

3) Embrace Potential – More than a quarter of respondents (28.1%) mentioned encouraging Utah girls and women to embrace their potential by believing in themselves, acknowledging their abilities, and taking control of their destinies. For some, that includes opportunities for girls and women to become financially literate so they can become self-sufficient and independent. Many participants believe there is considerable support for women and girls wanting to own businesses or become entrepreneurs.

4) Support Personal Choices – Whether it’s being a mother, pursuing a career, or a combination of the two, many commented on the need for support in their personal choices (21.5%). One respondent stated, “Help women feel supported in making the best choice for them, whether that is a career or a stay-at-home mother. More value shouldn’t be assigned to either one. Help individuals feel important and valued with whatever is best for them.” Many participants also suggested including boys and men in conversations around equality to encourage them to become allies.

5) Connect/Work Together for Change – Opportunities to connect, network, and work together for change were frequently cited (17%). “When women see other women leading, it inspires them to get involved. It’s not men vs. women – it’s men and women working side by side to better our state, towns, and neighborhoods,” said one respondent.

6) Support Women in Leadership and Public Office – Respondents supported more women becoming leaders, including running for and being elected to public office (16.8%). One participant wrote, “There is a goldmine of opportunity in politics and business! We need more women deciding our laws, running our schools, such as superintendents, and running for school board. We need more women CEOs.”

7) Increase Awareness of Community Resources/Support – Some called for increasing awareness and access to available resources and support (16.7%). Also noted was increasing community resources that provide education and support on abuse, violence, consent, safe dating, mental health, and reproductive health.

In addition to these seven categories, other miscellaneous opportunities were noted. Some identified Utah’s growing economy as a resource that brings more diverse perspectives to the state. Others viewed sports and outdoor recreation as valuable opportunities.

“By identifying and understanding the opportunities noted in the study, we hope to focus our efforts and resources on the common good of supporting women,” Madsen said. “When we strengthen the impact of Utah girls and women, we strengthen everyone.”

Click here to view the full report. Click here to learn more about the UWLP and A Bolder Way Forward.

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