Rolly: Lack of women in politics has real consequences
Utah's proportionate number of women in the State Legislature ranks 47th in the nation. Five of the 29 senators and 12 of the 75 House members are women, for a total of 16.3 percent in the full Legislature.
Breaking that down by party reveals an even starker trend. Of the 24 Republicans in the Senate, just two are women. Of the 61 Republicans in the House, four are women, including House Speaker Becky Lockhart.
No women are represented in Utah's six-member congressional delegation and no woman is among the statewide elected officials in the state.
In fact, just one woman has ever been elected to a statewide office in Utah excluding Olene Walker, who was elected lieutenant governor on the ticket with Mike Leavitt and later was elevated to governor when Leavitt resigned to take a cabinet post in the Bush Administration.
That woman was former Attorney General Jan Graham, who, interestingly enough, is cited as the best attorney general in the past 50 years over seven male counterparts.
Graham focused on domestic violence and child protection issues while the male attorneys general over the years have been resolute in defending unconstitutional cable television censorship and abortion laws, obsessing over fruitless lawsuits to "take back" federal lands within Utah's borders and, in the case of one AG, insisting on a state-issued yellow Ferrari convertible for himself.
Graham fought against the male-dominated Legislature's opposition to including Utah in a multi-state lawsuit against the big tobacco companies and then endured the legislators' ire when they weren't allowed to share in the glory of the tens of millions of dollars the state won from that suit.
In the Legislature, several women see a major difference between the genders when it comes to prioritizing the issues.
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, says the women are more engaged in education and child protection issues, noting they are the lawmakers usually pushing for required child safety belts and booster seats, prohibiting smoking in cars when a child is present and in cracking down on human trafficking that forces young women into prostitution.
House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig pushed through a bill expanding the reasons for protective orders, against push-back from mostly male lawmakers that such a bill might end up seizing the guns of the accused stalker.
Seelig, D-Salt Lake, said the biggest argument for having more women in public office is simply the fact that more diversity among government officials makes for a more representative government.
Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, says women bring a different perspective because of their life experiences.
She recalled the time a male legislator from Utah County objected to a bill requiring the licensing of aestheticians by holding up a pair of tweezers to show anyone can do the job.
Women know better the sharp tools and harsh chemicals often used in the trade, she said.
Another male legislator from Utah County once argued against a bill to subsidize child care for low-income families with the refrain: "We don't need child care, we need to do away with the need for child care," displaying total ignorance of the plight of many single mothers who don't have that choice, she said.
The day-long, free seminar is sponsored by the Hinckley Institute, the YWCA, Salt Lake Community Coillege, Vision 2020, AAUW and the League of Women Voters. Speakers include Salt Lake City Councilwoman Jill Remington Love, the Utah Pride Center's Megan Risbon, former Democratic state Rep. Jackie Biskupski and Republican political consultant Kim Coleman.