LOGAN, Utah (ABC4) – May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and the Utah State University Utah Women and Leadership Project is working to better identify how many women in Utah belong to those communities. The goal of this research is to help ensure equity for all women of color in the Beehive State.
“Equality is like, ‘Let’s do the same thing for everyone whether they need it or not,’” Susan Madsen explained. Madsen is the director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP).
In 2021, 22 percent of Utahns were identified as those other than non-Hispanic White, according to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. As the diversity of the state increases, UWLP has created a series of research reports on women of color.
The research will be broken down into a series of five reports that details data on Utah women of each census race/ethnic category, including Pacific Islander, Asian, Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and Native American. Madsen is leading this effort in creating these reports. She told ABC4 that researchers hope their work will help community leaders across Utah ensure equity more so than equality for women of color.
“When you understand people and groups of people, at least, you can design interventions, you can design help, you can design programs and initiatives that better serve the different populations that are here within the state of Utah,” stated Madsen.
She explained that the first step is to identify specific populations. She added, “In Utah, we don’t ask, or we don’t collect, gender data a lot. We don’t collect race/ethnicity data. What that results in is data that’s being published that’s just general.”
According to Madsen, specific needs often change based on a person’s gender, race and ethnicity.
For months, researchers have been collecting data to better understand what communities in Utah make up the 22 percent of people who were identified as non-Hispanic White. The first of the five reports, or snapshots, is that of Pacific Islander women.
UWLP found that nearly 14,000 women in Utah identify as Pacific Islander. This is less than one percent of Utah’s general population.
The research also gives a glimpse into the specific needs of Pacific Islander women in the state. Madsen explained, “They’re less likely to have health insurance, they’re significantly more likely to forgo medical care, less likely to have a personal doctor, less likely to receive medical care.”
The second of the five reports to come out is that of Asian American women. According to the snapshot, the Asian population (as a whole) is steadily growing in the state and now accounts for about 2.5 percent of the general population.
Like Pacific Islander women, Asian American women in Utah may have different needs from the majority of the population. Asian American women are more likely to have college degrees and tend to have lower rates of breast cancer than other women. However, research shows this community sees higher rates of poverty. Interestingly, this is the opposite of the national trend.
Why is this important to know this?
“When we know that (a) population is different, generally, we can do different things,” Madsen stated. “The health departments can do different things, we can message differently, teachers can encourage differently, and that’s really equity.”
Madsen said that understanding how specific subpopulations within the state fare when it comes to things like healthcare, employment, education, marital status and household size can help schools, non-profits, city governments and even state governments put into place policies and programs “to be able to lift them in different ways… depending on what the research and data says.”
Researchers will release the snapshots for the three other categories of women in the coming weeks.