Women in Utah Government: Study says not enough female leaders in municipalities

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A new study released Tuesday breaks down the numbers of male and female leaders in nearly every municipality in Utah to illustrate female representation in the Beehive State. 

Dr. Susan R. Madsen conducted the research through Utah State University and the Utah Women in Leadership Project. She found Utah has come a long way, but also has a long way to go. 

The three-part study looked at leadership roles in state, county and city governments. It found that in state roles, 39.9% are filled by women, in counties 42.5% are filled by women, and in local municipalities just 29.1% are filled by women. 

Dr. Madsen explained, “The research is clear that when you have men and women working together equally, you do better with complex decision making, that you see more options, you are more creative and innovative and come up with better solutions than just men working alone or women working alone.”

There were some surprising regional findings; some of our most rural towns also have the highest percentage of female representation, well over 60%. Dr. Madsen said, “The very top ones were very small cities: Marysvale, followed by Castle Valley, Dutch John, Helper, Rockville and Trenton were the top of the list.”

Dr. Madsen recommends three strategies to improve representation in cities, the first is bias education for everyone. 

“There’s so much unconscious bias, we’ve just done things the way we’ve done things for years. That educational component is critical,” explained Madsen.

The second, the culture from the top. City managers and bosses do set the tone and priorities for who’s hired. 

And third, quality of life. Dr. Madsen says women are drawn to roles with more flexibility and understanding of families. 

Visit the Utah Women in Leadership Project for more research and anti-bias training recommendations. 

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