USU research aims to address Utah’s poor history with women’s equality

Jan 5, 2024, 11:18 AM

The Utah Women and Leadership Project has consolidated 15 years of research they hope will help Uta...

The Utah Women and Leadership Project has consolidated 15 years of research they hope will help Utah lawmakers better lives for women in Utah. (Canva)


SALT LAKE CITY — In 2023, Utah continued a trend of being ranked one of the worst places for women while ranking first for things like economic outlook. Utah State University’s Utah Women and Leadership Project aims to figure out why women’s equality is lacking in a state that seems otherwise strong.

Dr. Susan Madsen is the project director of the Utah Women and Leadership Project at USU and wants her organization’s research to benefit the women of Utah.

She’s condensed years of work into one document that outlines why Utah has fallen behind with women’s equality. Madsen said the research can help lawmakers and others understand specific difficulties faced by women.

What research shows about the specific issues Utah women face

“We have been ranked as the worst state for women’s equality for eight years in a row,” she told KSL NewsRadio. “And there are many reasons for that — from education, from the percentage of women in politics compared to the nation. Even poverty is in that.”

Madsen said there is a disconnect in Utah, especially when the state’s strong economic growth is promoted but the status of women is continually ranked so low. 

That disconnect is what prompted these 15 years of research.

One main focus of the project’s research addresses women’s safety. Their data said 33% of women experience domestic violence and that 55%  have experienced direct sexual assault. Nationally, 42% of women report direct sexual assault.

“All of these numbers are really high in the state of Utah,” she said. “I mean, we’re 9th worst state in sexual assault and rape.”

Another element of their research is the place of women in the Utah workplace. The Utah Women and Leadership Project’s data said Utah women earn 30% less than men. The national disparity between women and men’s earning power is 16%. 

What is the solution?

Learning and leading are two of the answers, Madsen said.

“We’ve really been low on women in leadership positions, in politics, in community and other things. Home and family is great, but it isn’t an ‘and or or.'”

Madsen encouraged women to remember that they can be involved in their communities and use their voices.

“We are just so short, even at that basic level of women in those positions.”

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USU research aims to address Utah’s poor history with women’s equality