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The state is one of just five with no women in Congress or statewide elective office. Nationwide, women make up 24 percent of state legislators, while they hold 16.3 percent of the seats in the Utah Legislature.
Former state Rep. Jackie Biskupski, who helped start Real Women Run in 2010, said culture is one reason women don’t run for election or seek a spot on a policy-making commission.
Women in Utah
» Politics — Utah is one of just five states that have no women in Congress or statewide office, and female members make up just 16.3 percent of the state Legislature (although it does have a female House speaker in Becky Lockhart.
» Business — Just 31.8 percent of management jobs were held by women, third lowest portion in the nation.
» Poverty — 13.6 percent of Utah women and girls live in poverty. Utah fares better than all but 12 other states.
» Low wage — Women make up 57.6 percent of the segment of Utah’s workforce making less than $10.10 per hour.
» Wage gap — Women make, on average 70 cents for every dollar earned by men in Utah -- the fourth biggest wage gap nationally.
» Insurance — 15.2 percent of non-elderly Utah women are uninsured, about in the middle of the pack nationally.
» Infant mortality — Utah’s infant mortality rate is 4.86 percent — better than all but nine states.
» Contraceptives — Public funding supports just 28 percent of the contraceptive services needed, less than all but 14 other states.
Source: The State of Women in America, Center for American Progress
"Women have been taught that their place is to be at home and to raise the children and they feel like they can’t do both," said Biskupski, who now is part of Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder’s administration.
But when they do run — often when they’re motivated by a particular issue — women do well and are glad they did it, she said.
Robles, a candidate for Congress, agreed that women tend to worry about balancing family, work and public service. Economics also influences the decision, she said, because a legislative position is part-time so officeholders have to stretch their income and have enough flexibility in their full-time jobs to serve.
Real Women Run provides encouragement and training seminars to help them win. Robles, a vice president for Zions Bank, said the business community provides similar support through mentoring and other programs, although there is still more to do.
Business leaders » The Center for American Progress says women in Utah also are lagging in leadership roles in the private sector, where they hold 31.8 percent of managerial jobs — the third-worst showing in the nation, where overall, women hold 38 percent of those spots.
That figure comes as no surprise to Jonyce Bullock, the only woman among 15 partners at Squire & Company, an Orem-based accounting firm.
Although 60 percent of accounting graduates nationally are women, only 44 percent of staff-level accountants are female, she said. The numbers drop in Utah, with schools reporting 18 percent to 30 percent women in accounting, she said.
"We don’t even have the same pipeline coming out of schools," said Bullock, who supervises her company’s Advisory Department.
The women who do graduate with accounting degrees sometimes don’t engage fully in their profession because they plan to get married or start a family soon, Bullock said.
And they often do not have many opportunities for informal mentoring because male partners sometimes feel uncomfortable inviting a woman to lunch or to play golf, Bullock said.
The solution includes setting up formal mentoring programs and discussing ways to guide women in their careers, she said.
"We have to talk about it," Bullock said. "I don’t think anything will change unless we admit there’s an issue. We should just begin the conversation."
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