Utah women discuss gender equality in state politics

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Women have been underrepresented in politics throughout American history. Local women continue to make efforts to bring gender equality to government. (Made in Canva by Courtney Denning)

Multiple Utah women are working to increase equal gender representation in state politics.

Eden Jones said that her senior year of high school was the first time that she realized how much female representation in politics could impact her life. She was taking a government class when the 2016 presidential elections happened.

“I remember it just kind of hit me all at once, the issues that were at stake,” Jones said. “We could have had a female president for the first time in our history.”

Jones, who is studying political science at BYU, said she got chills when she saw images of Susan B. Anthony’s grave covered in “I voted” stickers placed by women during the 2016 election.

Voters lined up on Election Day to place “I voted” stickers on the grave of Susan B. Anthony at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY. on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (Max Schulte/Democrat & Chronicle via AP)

“It just hit me how important it was to use those rights that these women fought for,” Jones said.

Of the current 435 U.S. House representatives, 123 of these are women. Despite having four seats in the House of Representatives, none of these women are from Utah. Though several have run, Utah has never elected a female senator. 

Several women in the state are working to end the pattern of unequal gender representation in Utah politics. (Graph made in Flourish by Courtney Dennings)

Most recently, both Becky Edwards and Ally Isom ran against Mike Lee in the Republican primary elections for a chance at a seat in the Senate, but both women lost with only 30% and 8% of the vote, respectively.

Provo city councilwoman Katrice MacKay said she would love to see a Utah woman in Congress.

“There’s no doubt that we need all perspectives,” MacKay said. “We need everyone to be represented.”

While MacKay said she thinks that women should be better represented in government, she also believes that these conversations leave out the aspect of personal choice. She said she urges people not to discount the large number of women in the state who want to be stay-at-home mothers.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we put zero value on a women staying home with her children and raising them,” MacKay said. “I think that’s unfair. It’s hard work.”

Jones said women who dedicate their lives towards homemaking deserve just as much praise as women who pursue a career in politics. She also believes that these issues tend to be more prevalent in Utah because of the widespread religious culture.

“I think there are a lot of situations in which culturally, women don’t feel as supported in careers and feel more directed towards the home,” she said. “I think they feel the brunt of that responsibility more than men do.”

Jones said she hopes that a cultural shift could occur which would lead to more women acting as Utah’s legislative representatives. 

“I don’t think they preclude men’s responsibility in the home and women’s place on the Congress floor,” Jones said of traditional family roles.

Provo city councilwoman Shannon Ellsworth has been using her position to encourage women to run for office and get involved in politics. 

“It’s been important to me that Provo city gets closer to gender parity with boards and commissions,” Elisworth said. “My hope is that we could get more diverse experiences at the table.”

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