This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
I read with great interest the op-ed piece written by Margaret Dayton and Stuart Reid published June 4 titled, "'War on women' is built on misleading myths."
It seemed an intriguing piece, based on the authors' own opinions, but readers need to know that it was not founded on facts or current research findings. Hence, unfortunately, it fosters misleading myths based on personal experience and bias rather than the latest statistics and scholarly research.
For this response I will stick to the facts supported by thousands of published studies from a wide variety of academic fields and disciplines, including social psychology, sociology, political science, communication, economics, management, organizational behavior, human resources, leadership and others.
Before getting to the research, however, I must say that I work directly or indirectly with the majority of organizations and efforts in Utah that focus on developing and supporting women. Research has shown that these types of initiatives are critical to strengthening communities. Through the years I've noted that none of these organizations in Utah identify men as "oppressors" or have "not-so-hidden agendas" to make "villains out of men and victims out of women." Their focus is to build women by welcoming both genders into the conversation. Examples of these organizations or initiatives include, among others, the Utah Women and Leadership Project, Utah Women & Education Initiative, Real Women Run, Utah YWCA, Women's Leadership Institute, Utah Women in Higher Education Network, Women's Business Center, Utah Women in the Economy Commission, Girls Scouts of Utah and women's groups within the United Way. Fortunately, many men in Utah now "get" the importance of strengthening women. Now to the research:
First, Dayton and Reid are correct that nationwide women are graduating in higher numbers than men, but this is not the case in Utah. Although we have recently made slight progress, there remains a substantial gap in Utah between men and women who hold bachelor's degrees and higher. Utah continues to fall below the national average for women graduating from college.
Second, there are initiatives in Utah to get more women to run for public office, but these efforts are not to fill any "quota." Research has been conducted worldwide on why communities, states and nations can benefit from having women in decision-making positions and there are hundreds of reasons. Findings from hundreds of scholarly studies are summarized in a brief titled "Why Do We Need More Women Leaders in Utah?"
Third, in the thousands of studies I have read from credible sources, I have not found one stating that the gender pay gap no longer exists. I agree that there is sometimes distortion to the argument as some of the data do not measure "apples to apples." However, in-depth scholarly articles carefully take all major variables into account like gender difference in college degrees, years of educations, industries, career breaks and so forth and there is still a substantial gender pay gap. A few organizations in Utah have taken on this gap internally and have "equalized" pay; these serve as examples that it can be done!
Statistical comparisons (based on research not opinion) have brought attention to the gaps to benefit Utahns in all ways, including economic, societal and within our own churches and homes. The research is clear (in Utah and across the world) that these programs, initiatives and efforts to support women do make a difference. Many are focused on strengthening and supporting women with whatever decisions they make, including being stay-at-home mothers.
The research continues to find that the majority of gender differences in professional and public life are based on gender socialization individuals experience throughout their upbringing and beyond. Unconscious bias on the part of both women and men continues to be at the heart of many of the struggles.
Op-ed pieces based on opinions and myths do not help, but I urge more Utahns to get involved in efforts that encourage and assist girls, young women, and women in gaining confidence, finding their voices,and becoming leaders. These efforts will also benefit boys and men and strengthen our state as a whole.
Susan R. Madsen is the Orin R. Woodbury Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Utah Valley University's Woodbury School of Business.