Utah Women and Failing Political Participation

Utah women use to be political powerhouses. On February 14th, 1870, Seraph Young Ford was the first woman to vote legally in modern America. In 1896, Martha Hughes Cannon was Utah's and the nation's first female state senator, beating five other male candidates, including her husband, to win. Utah also had countless women suffragists, Emmeline B. Wells being one of the most notable, having met with 4 U.S. presidents to advocate for women's suffrage. However, in 2015, Utah ranked last on the Status of Women's in the States political participation status. Why is this?

First, we must look at and understand the methodology behind the ranking used by the Status of Women for female political participation. Voter registration is the first component that is used to show political involvement. Second is voter turn out, and women in elected office (statewide elected offices and positions in Congress) is third. Finally, the institutional resources(commissions, campaign training, etc.) available to women are considered. All of these are given a different weight based on what is believed to be an ideal score. A more in-depth explanation of these factors and their exact weights can be found here.

Looking at the results, Utah ends up ranking 44th for women in elected offices. Utah had 16 women in the State legislature of 104 persons, and one woman serving in Congress. Utah's ranking for women's institutional resources was 36th. Utah ranked 43rd in women registered to vote, and 46th for percent of women who voted. All together Utah ranks 50th out of all the states in the US. Utah did have 60.4% of women registered to vote, but only 45.4% did vote, and while men do vote less the gap between those who registered and those who voted was much smaller. 

A possible reason for low political participation in Utah is because Utah women have very few political role models. It is far less threatening to follow in someone's footsteps than it is to carve the path. In 2016, of Utah's 246 cities only 3 had female mayors. Additionally, mass media's focus on women's appearance, versus their accomplishments, has contributed to a culture that discourages women from running for office. Another plausible cause for Utah women's low political participation is the profound influence of Mormon values. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, females are taught that the most crucial role in their life is to be a mother. Many LDS members believe that any significant career will result in not being able to have the time to be a great mother. . 

With election season right around the corner, it is important to support women in politics and make sure each and every one of our voices are heard. It is also important that Utah women do not just accept the fact that we are in last in political participation. Rather, we should encourage others to take part in politics, even though other factors may be trying to hold us back.