Number of female politicians in Utah lower than national average

In Utah, there are few women who run for municipal office, and even fewer who hold it. Professor of political science at Utah State University, Roberta Herzberg, said, “Women sometimes have a pretty good representation at the lower levels at politics because it is an entry level. Many are active in their communities, not traditionally, but of late that has been true, but I think Utah is an exception to that.” Nationally, women hold municipal offices in the lower 20 percent range, Herzberg said. In Cache County, women currently hold 16 percent of city council seats (before the 2011 elected officials take their seats). After

<a href=””>Tuesday’s elections</a>

, little has changed. Of the 39 individuals who won seats on councils in Cache County, nine were women (23 percent). Out of the 61 total candidates for Cache County city council seats, 14 were women. After the 2011 elections, some cities have no women in seats, including Amalga and Newton. A few gained women, like Wellsville and Nibley. Not having women in such positions is an issue because a different view point is left out during discussion and policy making, Herzberg said. “There are differences in the issues that come up when women are involved,” Herzberg said. “Social issues are going to have gender difference, like social welfare.” Crime for example, is something often seen as a masculine issue, but women are very sensitive to crime, especially violent crime, because of their families. Thus women can add another perspective in crime legislation because of their concerns. Herzberg said, “Crime and safety are something that the local level deals with often, and having women participating in making policy on such issues could make a significant difference in outcomes.” But why there are few women in such positions is a multifaceted problem. The positions offer little to no pay and require lots of time, something that may prevent young educated women or working mothers from being able to hold such positions. One of the problems is self-perpetuating, Herzberg said. That is the phenomenon of when there are a certain number of women, in some cases just one, in such political arenas, more women are retained and elected. Herzberg said it is breaking down the barrier of the “good ol’ boy” system. While it can be difficult to get a woman on board, once it occurs, there will likely be more women to follow. Also, the process of getting people to run for municipal office adds to the problem because it is an informal process that usually recruits people whose work or business brings them into contact with the community. In a conservative state like Utah, Herzberg said, women generally aren’t in those roles, such as builders and bankers, essentially leaving women off the radar. “Generations are changing,” Herzberg said. “I think younger women see themselves as having more opportunities and being called on in more capacities from the beginning and are more socialized into that than previous generations.”

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