Women in politics, why it’s more challenging to land roles

Nov 22, 2023, 4:00 PM | Updated: 4:55 pm

Celeste Maloy gives television interviews after the race was called in her favor at an election nig...

Celeste Maloy gives television interviews after the race was called in her favor at an election night party at the Utah Trucking Association in West Valley City on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. Maloy was running against Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, in the special election to fill Rep. Chris Stewart’s seat in the 2nd Congressional District. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Republican Celeste Maloy won the special election for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District on Tuesday, making her one of five women who have represented Utah in the House of Representatives. 

The win has sparked a conversation about the uphill battle women face in politics. 

Susan Madsen, director of the Women and Leadership Project at Utah State University, joined Dave and Dujanovic to discuss what it’s like to be a woman in politics. 


Madsen said an endorsement from former Rep. Chris Stewart played a crucial part in Maloy’s win. That and overall “…how important men are in supporting women and using their voices. And I think that really made a difference.” 

When taking a look at the history of women representing Utah, it’s evident not many have had the chance. 

Madsen said having representation helps bring an issues to the table that women and families care about. 

“This is not going to be a surprise to you, but women and men think differently and we have different experiences,” she said.

With different experiences come varying perspectives. Madsen believes bringing different perspectives, as part of the role in Congress, is really important for the state of Utah. 

Difficulties women face in politics

Historically, Madsen said, as a population we expect women to be in private roles and men in public roles, especially in religious states like Utah.

Maloy told KSL NewsRadio on Wednesday, “I’ve got to show the people in this district in a very short amount of time that I can be effective for them.” 

Madsen said that it typically takes one other person to encourage a man to run for office. For women, it takes three. 

“What we know from the research is it really takes at least three people to say to a woman “you should run” till she feels like “oh, maybe I should, maybe I have what it takes.”

Bias and discrimination also play a key role in why women are apprehensive about running. 

“They get asked questions that men would never be asked, I have to tell you, we have collected data on that,” she said. “And been shamed a lot.” 

Although women face more challenges, numbers have increased over the years. 

“We’re starting to turn as of just a couple of years ago, on increasing numbers in city councils,” Madsen said. 

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Women in politics, why it’s more challenging to land roles