Tribune editorial: Utah does poorly by its women

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Zions Bank is among the Utah companies committed to looking at its pay structures and is making changes for equitable pay for women within the company's workforce.

It is painful, though not difficult, to connect the dots of a handful of articles that appeared recently in The Salt Lake Tribune.

It all adds up to Utah being a place where it is not so good to be female.

In just the last week, we learned that Utah is the second-worst state in terms of sexism in its culture. It is the only state outside the Southeast “Bible Belt” that ranked in the bottom tier of states with such a bad attitude toward the equality of women, coming in behind only Arkansas and just ahead of such states as Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and West Virginia.

The ranking is based on a series of questions in a survey that tease out popular views on women’s — and men’s — proper role in the home, business and government. What is striking, if not altogether surprising, is that, depending on how one squints while looking at the data, women in Utah are more sexist than men, at least in terms of their expectations for early marriage and motherhood.

Meanwhile, the online financial site WalletHub designated Utah as the very bottom state for women’s equality.

Meanwhile meanwhile, another set of statistics point to Utah as a place where women’s wages are actually declining, even as wages for women, and for men, show a lot of growth in other states.

And it was also revealed that a scandal involving several women in Logan who were allegedly sexually assaulted by the same Utah State University football player was accompanied by a system of management and communications where people who are supposed to be aware of, investigate and help the victims of sexual assault did not communicate necessary information. It is hard to reach any conclusion other than a serious concern that, until city and university officials became aware of and took action — prompted by the questions being asked and problem being found by Tribune journalists — Logan was a place that was frightening for women and comforting for serial criminals.

The various investigations and studies contain lots of asterisks and caveats. But they all point to a culture that just doesn’t seem to care very much about women’s safety and their ability to get ahead in life.

It is a situation that doubtless has roots in the culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a worldview that has what might be kindly called “traditionalist” attitudes toward the role of women as wives and mothers first — if not always. But other states have traditionalist roots as well. And, in some of the studies, supposedly more liberal-minded blue states also show a troubling pattern of sexist attitudes and glass ceilings.

Wherever women live, whatever faith tradition they (and their male relatives and employers) follow, nobody should aspire to be at the bottom of so many measures.

The simple fact is that young women, like young men, need to be encouraged to make their own way in the world. To get an education. To find the career or vocation that allows them to make the most of their personal talents and desires. Such an attitude not only builds every community’s economy, it also recognizes that no person can count on being supported by some other person all their life.

We can, and must, do better.