In 2020, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gives women across the country the right to vote. We have a wonderful opportunity to use this celebration to change the narrative that Utah is the worst state in the country regarding women’s equality, and instead, prove that we lift up women, value women and that women matter.
With the 2020 legislative session, we have the opportunity to commemorate Utah’s important history of supporting women by becoming the 38th and final state necessary to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, thereby enshrining equal rights for all in the United States Constitution.
Throughout Utah’s history, we have been a shining example of respect for women. More than 50 years before the passage of the 19th Amendment, Seraph Young was the first woman to legally cast a vote — right here in Utah! A mural depicting the historic event is displayed in our state capitol.
We were one of the early states to ratify that same amendment, less than four months after it was passed by Congress. In 1896, Utah elected Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon to be a state senator and America’s first woman to hold that position. Just last year, our Legislature voted to honor her with a statue in the United States Capitol. And, Utah’s own state Constitution has language even stronger than that in the ERA, language that our legislators unanimously reaffirmed just this year.
Utah already values equality. The federal government, however, does not have to follow Utah law. For the protection of women everywhere, it is time for us to lead once again and to stand up for equality at home and throughout the country.
Our families will benefit. Women make up 47% of people in the workplace, either by choice or by necessity. Yet, on average, women make salaries 80% that of their male counterparts, and 70% here in Utah. With wage equality, women would not need to spend additional time at work to earn the same amount as men. This would translate to more time elsewhere, such as at home with families — a great benefit for men, women and children.
Our businesses will benefit. High-tech and startup companies strive to attract and retain young people, who are keenly aware of social issues. The same people want to work for companies and live in areas that reflect their values, which includes basic equality.
Nearly 94% of Americans support the ERA. Even our own Silicon Slopes has acknowledged this importance, commenting that they “should focus on making the area even more attractive to tech startups,” and that the lack of a diverse workforce may impede this goal, acknowledging that women occupy only 14.6% of tech jobs in Utah. Ratifying the ERA will help bring more tech jobs to Utah and place more women in those jobs.
Our economy will benefit. More diversity and people of varied backgrounds bring a range of perspectives, which fosters a dynamic exchange of ideas and leads to increased innovation through all levels of business, from family-owned businesses to large corporations. Paying women the same as their male counterparts will increase their spending power, which boosts the economy.
Passing the Equal Rights Amendment is not only about improving the perception of Utah. It’s about protecting and supporting families here and across the country. It’s about sustaining and championing business. It’s about improving our economy. It’s about doing what is right.
Almost 150 years ago, Utah led the country on this issue. We can and should do it again.
Charlotte Maloney is a member of the Utah ERA Coalition. She holds a bachelor of science in business from the University of Utah and has worked in human resource management and as a librarian.