Michelle Quist: Women can do things. Get out of the way.

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, during an interview, Thursday, January 25, 2018.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the lack of women appointed to the Utah Legislature’s new “Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force.” Out of 10 voting members, there is one woman – Democratic Sen. Karen Mayne.

Republican leaders could not imagine one woman within their own caucuses who might be a good fit for the task force, which is tasked with revamping the state’s entire tax scheme. I wrote about the obvious failure to include women’s perspective, especially on a subject matter that so directly affects women. (One idea for the new scheme is to tax service industries, which are disproportionately staffed by women.)


I did hear from men on Twitter wondering who exactly I thought would have been a better choice. The implication was, of course, that the female Republican legislators were not as experienced or as knowledgeable as the men appointed to the task force.

I don’t know, maybe Sen. Deidre Henderson, who has been on the Senate Revenue and Taxation committee for seven years, and is even a former chair.

Someone wanted to know which of the men I would not have appointed in order to appoint a woman. Because somehow all nine of them were entitled to their esteemed positions, and if a woman is going to replace them, well then by golly I better publicly state which man “loses” his spot.

Another tweeter suggested that maybe the Republican women were too busy focusing on conversion therapy and unconstitutional abortion bans. Point taken.

Someone pointed out that there was only one woman each on the related legislative standing committees (there are actually two women on the Senate standing committee, and one woman on the House committee).

But the fact that there are only a few women on the related standing committees doesn’t show that there was no one to appoint, it shows that the problem is worse than it appears. Why are there only one or two women on the standing committees dealing with revenue and taxation in our state?

Are women not concerned with such issues? We are. Are women not affected by such issues? We are. Every single female legislator is competent enough to sit on that task force. They’re our legislators, for goodness sakes.

Women are just as competent as men to fulfill the duties of these legislative committees and task forces. It’s not rocket science.

If male Republican leaders don’t appoint female legislators to powerful and relevant committees, then our lack of female representation is on them, not on women’s alleged lack of experience or leadership or any other fabricated excuse to keep the good ‘ol boys club alive and strong.

My friend Adrielle Herring said it best, “In any organization, the current leadership has the responsibility to prepare the next group of leaders. Current leadership shapes future leadership by deciding who gets opportunities today. Either we don’t have vision, or this group [of 9 men and 1 woman and 0 Republican women] reflects our vision of leadership without women.”

Our current leadership is failing. Either they don’t have a wide-enough vision, or they just don’t want women involved.

The question is, what do we have to do to prove our worthiness?

In the case of BYU track star and All-America runner Erica Birk-Jarvis, she had to have a child, and then train longer and harder to run even faster than before. To prove she could do it. Her husband commented, “Most moms can’t do it. It is pretty much unheard of, what she’s doing.”

And that may be the case, but I’d venture to say that most moms can do it – whatever “it” is for them. Having children doesn’t make our legs run slower or our brains stop working (don’t quote me on that) or our ambition dry up.

Most moms can do it. Some moms don’t want to do it. Some moms don’t try to do it. Some moms don’t have the support to be able to do it. But most moms can do it.

The point is she didn’t succeed despite her motherhood; she became better because of it. Likely because of all the suppositions out there that moms can’t do it. She had to prove everyone wrong, including her own damn husband.

A few years ago, “We can do hard things!” was the political warrior call. Here’s my warrior call:

Women can do things. Stop getting in the way.

Michelle Quist

Michelle Quist is a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.