Provo Women’s Day lecturers share empowering experiences, solutions to Utah inequality

BYU student Katie Ann Powell and other women of all ages listen to presentations on personal value, women’s empowerment and gender inequality during the lecture series on Provo Women’s Day at the Provo Rec Center in Provo. (Andrea Zapata)

The seventh annual Provo Women’s Day offered a lecture series where influential women from the Provo community talked about their empowerment experiences and discussed ways gender equality can be improved in Utah.

The event took place on March 5 at the Provo Rec Center. Mayor Michelle Kaufusi and Miss Provo Whitney Gillman were two notable attendees.

This year’s theme was “Set a Gold Standard,” inspiring women to set individual goals, become leaders and remember their value.

“This event started as an initiative to enhance the visibility of the women of Provo, promote leadership opportunities for women in our community and provide resources for women to help one another,” Mayor Kaufusi’s statement about the event said.

Catherine Raney Norman, a retired four-time Olympian, was one of the speakers at the lecture series. Norman explained retirement didn’t mean she was done inspiring others to accomplish their dreams of becoming athletes. Since she stopped competing in 2010, she has dedicated herself to serving on the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s Athletes’ Council.

“Everything I have learned as an athlete continues to carry on in every aspect in my life: team work, empowering others and knowing my worth,” Norman said.

Her leadership has mainly focused on direct athlete support, elite athlete health insurance and athlete career and education.

Another woman who spoke Diljeet Taylor, associate director of cross country and track and field at BYU. Taylor talked about her experience interviewing with BYU and how she felt it was inspired that she ended up working at the university.

“When I toured BYU campus before my interview, I had a strong feeling that told me that I could come and empower the women at BYU,” Taylor said. “I think the people at the university had a very similar feeling because after an hour, the interview became more of a recruiting process, and next thing you know, my husband and I were moving to Provo.”

Taylor also explained how her primary goal was to “show the women in track the value they had, inside and outside the sport.”

There were other topics discussed besides sports, such as the challenge of Jenedy Paige, a mother who lost her child and decided to turn to God, art and sports to grieve and heal.

“Now you may not be struggling with grief, but we all carry around black balloons of some kind: anxiety, depression, ill feelings, a grudge. It can be hard to let go,” Paige said. “But I want to add my witness that the Atonement has already been made, the price has already been paid, the Savior took upon Himself all of our sorrow, sadness, sin and pain so we don’t have to.”

Utah ranked worst state for women’s equality; possible solutions

The seventh annual Provo Women’s Day includes a luncheon after the lecture series. The event also offered free fitness, Zumba and art classes. (Andrea Zapata)

After the women shared their experiences and tips to “set a gold standard,” founding director of the Utah Women and Leadership Project Susan Madsen talked about her concerns regarding gender inequality in the state of Utah. She presented her research with Utah State University as possible solutions.

“Utah continues to be ranked as the 50th state for women’s equality in the nation,” Madsen said, referring to a WalletHub report released in August 2021.

During the lecture, she talked about the influence The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has on the actions, attitudes and beliefs of the more than 60% of Utah’s population who are members of the Church.

“The Latter-day Saint Church emphasizes family formation, and, while recognizing equality between partners in marriage, it also emphasizes that genders have different roles — men and gather to provide and protect, and women and mothers to nurture and teach their children,” Madsen said.

“This division of effort and focus continues to influence the labor force decisions of many Utah residents and most likely impacts how Utah scores on several of the metrics measured in the WalletHub survey: gender wage gap, corporate leadership representation and hours worked outside the home,” she continued.

Madsen’s research found the main focuses to improve women’s equality is to implement changes in education, health, the workplace environment and increasing women’s political empowerment.

She emphasized the benefits of electing women to the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives and the Utah House and Senate. They can increase training, support and development for women and prepare the next generation of women to be political leaders.

“Assertively addressing sexism and discrimination among political parties, from caucuses to statewide leadership, will help shift the tide in Utah for all key indictors in this section,” Madsen said.

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