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Female politicians in Utah discuss state of women in politics

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Posted at 9:57 PM, Sep 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-04 09:20:05-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah ranks the lowest in the nation for women in politics. Wednesday night, some of the state's most powerful and influential females took on tough questions.

It was a room full of women who were at times, very candid. Some of the familiar faces included Utah's female congressional candidates. The topic: women, power and politics.

"Women, we always struggle in terms of having a voice and having women step up, but we have a little more of concern here in Utah," said Dr. Susan Madsen, who championed the Utah Women and Leadership Project at UVU.

Women represent more than 50 percent of voters in Utah. Yet they hardly have a voice where it matters the most: politics.

"16.3 percent of the 2014 Utah legislature was women, and five of those women are leaving this year, so our state is not well represented by women in the legislature," said Anne Burkholder, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the YWCA of Utah.

Some Utah women want to know why. Why aren't more females running for office? They decided to host this panel presentation to get to the bottom of that tough question and invited the state's three female congressional candidates.

"Women have families, well so do men, and that's the excuse most men use why women don't run," said Donna McAleer, the Democratic congressional candidate for District 1.

Mia Love, the Republican congressional candidate for District 4, said: "Women aren't as motivated or inspired to run for political office as much as men are because when we look in the mirror, we don't sit there and say, ‘you know what? I can do this. I am absolutely experienced enough. I have the leadership qualities.’”

"It's hard for women to say, ‘I'm ready’ because if a man shows some type of sensitivity, that's a sensitive man, he's sensible man,” said Luz Robles, the Democratic congressional candidate for District 2. “If he's strong, then he's a strong man. If a woman shows some level of her character, crying she's weak. If she's too strong, then well she comes across, I won't say the word. I think we get these double standards and sometimes it's very difficult to overcome them.”

What is one way to overcome double standards? Neah Bois is the Program Director for the High School Democrats of Utah. She says change starts with educating young women about the importance of their role in the world of politics.

"I realized there weren't a lot of young female voices in Utah, or voices as a whole, and I really want to be the person to take lead and make changes in my community, in my school and now nationwide,” Bois said. “We need young voices.”