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Op-ed: Utah needs more women running for office, and we will help them

Published January 10, 2016 7:15 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington D.C. veterans have been heard to say, "If you're not at the table, you're probably on the menu."

Too often women's issues have been on the menu. We simply need more women at the table. Research indicates that women legislators of both parties are more likely than male legislators of either party to work on legislation specifically intended to benefit women. Females are 50 percent of the population in Utah, yet only 15.4 percent of our state legislature is women.

The percentage of women who actually vote in Utah is higher than the percentage of men who vote. Effective campaigns for women candidates can help capture the support of women voters as well as the votes of men in our state.



Although women are well represented in Utah on boards of education, women lag far behind in mayoral positions, city council positions and in county offices. All of these public functions need more equitable representation from women and minorities.

Women often develop expertise in important issues, such as Speaker Becky Lockhart's leadership of transportation and Olene Walker's leadership of low-income housing and the necessity of a state rainy day fund.

Former Minority Leader Jen Seelig had a long history of working on legislation related to improved safety for women and children. In addition to women's issues, women legislators frequently take the lead in education and health, perennial legislative issues.

Holding office is an important way for women of every race and ethnicity to shape the policies that affect their lives, the lives of their families, and all Utahns. Electing more women helps achieve fundamental fairness and democratic ideals. Women bring different priorities and experience to public life. In a representative democracy, those perspectives are needed.

Research from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University indicates that women need an extra push to consider themselves ready to run for office whether that office is on the local, state, or the national level. Recruitment, someone else actually asking a woman to run, is often a pathway to office.

If women run, they have the same success rate as men, but women run for office in fewer numbers than men, particularly in Utah.

Real Women Run is working to change that. Real Women Run is a nonpartisan Utah initiative to empower women to participate fully in public life and civic leadership through elected political office at all levels, appointments to board and commissions, participation in campaigns, and engagement in the political system.

On Jan. 16 at the Sandy Larry Miller campus of Salt Lake Community College, Real Women Run will offer a full day of training on how to effectively run for office or how to manage a campaign for another candidate of your choosing. There will also be a session on how to become a member of a board or commission, often a stepping stone to running for office. Boards and commissions are often a successful way to improve the community.

Fundraising is critical for any successful campaign yet women candidates consider this task to be one of the most challenging. Real Women Run will provide training for this essential cog in the wheel of candidacy. Campaign organization and using the media successfully, especially social media, will be covered.

Because of SB 54, a candidate can now take two different routes to the ballot or do both. The Utah Elections Office will help sort out the complexity of SB 54 so women can make an informed decision on the route that is best for them.

This program can demystify the process of running for elective office, encourage more women to run for office, and introduce them to elected and appointed leaders to whom they can turn as they get ready to run.

More information on Real Women Run can be found online at realwomenrun.org including registration information. We hope women will embrace this opportunity to learn more about civic involvement.

Women's issues have been on the menu for far too long. It's past time for women to be at the policy table, planning the menu, and voting on the menu.

Sheryl Allen is a former state representative from Davis County. Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck is a current representative from Salt Lake City.

 

 

 

 

 

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