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The Utah Women and Education Initiative, which aims to increase the number of women who graduate from college, was launched this week.

The group is an outgrowth of the Utah Women's College Task Force that was convened by Gov. Gary Herbert in 2011.

In 2012, the Utah Legislature appropriated $100,000 in funding for the Utah State Board of Regents to implement the task force recommendations, which included establishing the UWEI.

The group will work to implement 10 recommendations that came out of the task force. Those recommendations include creating a "college-going" culture for women, creating women-focused mentoring programs and establishing flexible attendance and credit options for students so they can better balance education, family and work.

The organization, which launched its website Thursday at, will be led by Mary Ann Holladay. Susan Madsen, professor of leadership and ethics at the Utah Valley University business school, is UWEI's senior advisor.

Holladay and Madsen said the group will coordinate its efforts with the Board of Regents, the governor's office and the Utah State Office of Education to achieve the state's "big goal" that by 2020 at least 66 percent of Utahns aged 25 to 64 have a postsecondary degree or certificate.

Utah women are underrepresented in business and science, technology, engineering and math degree programs, according to UWEI. —

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