‘Real Women Run’ hosts annual training, hopes to close gender gap in Utah politics

Posted at 9:34 PM, Jan 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-16 23:34:43-05

SALT LAKE CITY – The group “Real Women Run” is on a mission to close the gender gap in Utah politics, and Saturday they hosted a training session aimed at encouraging women to seek public office.

Saturday’s training helped provide women with the tools and resources they need to campaign and get elected.

"It’s critical that we do more to encourage women to be part of the process because they make a difference when they serve,” said Debbie Walsh, Director of the Center for American Women and Politics.

Women make up about 50 percent of the population, but they account for less than a quarter of the elected officials.

"Our country, our states, our cities: They’re facing all sorts of challenges right now, and it’s kind of foolish to leave half the talent off the table," Walsh said.

Real Women Run is hoping to change that statistic.

At a workshop on the Salt Lake Community College campus, more than 150 women came to learn about running for office and working on a campaign.

And the teachers are local politicians who are leading by example.

“This is important to you, and it's also important to the community,” Utah Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-District 24, said during the event.

Former Utah Democratic Party chair Josie Valdez said women are facing an uphill battle here in the Beehive State.

"In the state of Utah there is a certain mindset about what a woman should be doing in her life and that’s being a wife and a mother,” Valdez said. “So part of the challenge in this particular political environment is convincing individuals that a woman’s place is where she wants to be.”

But, Real Women Run say it’s those experiences in the home that make women great leaders.

"More bipartisan, work across the aisle, more collaborative, more inclusive," Walsh said.

"We care for our community, we care for the future,” Valdez added. “We care for our children, we care for their education. So the reality is, that being involved in the political arena is simply an extension and an expansion of our role as women.”

Among the speakers were several local politicians, including Rep. Chavez-Houck and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski.

At present, only one woman serves in Utah’s congressional delegation, Rep. Mia Love, a Republican representing Utah’s Fourth District. There are no women currently holding statewide office in Utah.