Since this state’s conception, four women have served Utah in the U.S. House of Representatives, only one of whom served during my lifetime. Not a single woman has been elected to the U.S. Senate from Utah. Let me make that clear: It’s 2022 and a woman has never been elected to either of Utah’s Senate seats.
With Mike Lee winning the primary election against Becky Edwards and Ally Isom, and Evan McMullin poised to be Lee’s main opponent in the general election, that’s unlikely to change any time soon.
Where does this leave us as a state? It certainly keeps us on track to rank worst in women’s equality nationally for the fifth year in a row. In December 2021, the Salt Lake Tribune published ten ways Utah can improve that ranking. The article reported that increasing the political representation of women would make a big difference, and recommended electing a woman to one of Utah’s two U.S. Senate seats.
Now it’s June 2022, and we have undeniably missed another opportunity to improve the standing of Utah women.
It isn’t just about rankings. Research has found that female legislators are more likely to champion legislation addressing issues of particular importance to women — including women’s rights, children and families and reproduction. For these reasons, female legislators often have closer ties to women’s advocacy organizations than their male counterparts.
Plus, they get things done. Women tend to demonstrate political leadership by working across party lines through women’s caucuses, even in the most politically combative environments. A publication by Cambridge University Press suggests that women are more likely to respond to constituent requests than men and presents evidence that women generally perform better than their male counterparts across a range of representational activities.
We should want women to represent us. Not just because we value equality, but because they are good at it. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the progress that has been made for women in Utah. Last year, four cities elected their first female mayor. We have an outstanding female lieutenant governor. With the nomination of Judge Jill M. Pohlman, the state is on the verge of its first female-majority Supreme Court. These are great strides, and at the very least, this pace must continue.
That being said, there is simply no substitute for electing a Utah woman to the U.S. Senate. No matter the outcome of the general election in November, it will not be a win for gender equality. But it isn’t a total loss either. This election cycle has seen strong female candidates running competitive races against incumbents, and receiving a significant portion of the vote. As Utahns, we must continue encouraging women to run for office, thank the ones who do, and then show up to vote for them.
So, here’s to another three years without a female senator. But more importantly, here’s to Becky Edwards, Ally Isom and every other woman who has run to represent Utah in the Senate. May there be many more to come.
Hannah Koford Adams is an intern at Alliance for a Better Utah and a recent graduate of Brigham Young University.