A national report stated that in 2015 nearly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.4 million, or 17.9%) suffered from a mental illness and that 9.8 million Americans (4% of all adults) had a serious mental illness.
One recent in-depth study showed Utah ranking sightly below the national average in the percentage of adults who suffer from poor mental health, the state regularly reports rates higher than the national average for depression. Another recent study that considered both the percentage of adults with mental illness and their access to affordable care (among other factors) ranked Utah last out of all 50 states plus D.C.4 Utah women, like women nationally, are diagnosed with depression at much higher rates than men.5 Understanding the factors surrounding mental illness and increasing access to successful treat- ment and support will improve the overall well-being of women in Utah.
Mental Health by the Numbers
2016 Utah State Health Assessment reported that Utah women suffered from poor mental health at much higher rates than men (19.8% vs. 12.1%). Some mental health conditions are specific to women, such as perinatal mood disorders occurring both during and after pregnancy. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 15% of postpartum women experience depression, a serious condition that differs from the widespread “baby blues.”
2009 research study of Utah women found that postpartum depression symptoms were more common (14.7%) than gestational diabetes (2.4%), pregnancy-associated hypertension (5.5%), and preterm birth (10.0%), among women in their childbearing years. The study showed that approximately 60% of women who experienced symptoms of postpartum depression did not seek help from a medical professional.
More recent data show that 15.3% of Utah women reported frequent postpartum symptoms, which is higher than the national average of 10.1%. Utah was second highest of 26 reporting sites in that study. As Utah has the highest birthrate in the nation and the largest household size (which adds pressure for new mothers), efforts to understand and treat postpartum depression are greatly needed.
Factors Surrounding Mental Health Conditions
Mental health disorders can be connected to or exacerbated by many factors, including poverty, lower education levels, poor physical health, and negative life experiences. A recent national study showed that those living below the poverty line were more than twice as likely to have depression as those living at or above the poverty level (15% vs. 6.2%).
In 2016, 36.9% of Utah women living at or below the federal poverty level reported having seven or more poor mental health days in the last 30 days versus only 18.5% of women living above the poverty level. Also in 2016, 29.1% of Utah women with no high school degree reported having seven or more poor mental health days in the last 30 days versus 22.2% of women with a high school degree, 23.0% of women with some college, and 13.9% of women with a college degree.
According to the World Health Organization, “There is no health without mental health.”
Efforts to Address Mental Health in Utah
Many tools can be utilized to treat mental health conditions, including medication. Antidepressants are in widespread use for depression and related disorders, and these medications are among the top three therapeutic drugs prescribed in the U.S.
Individual or group therapy is another tool that is frequently used to address mental health issues, yet only 45% of adults and 41% of adolescents in Utah with mental health conditions receive treatment. In addition, the number of mental health professionals per-capita in Utah is well below the national average, and each county in the state has been designated a Mental Health Provider Shortage Area.
Of course, affordable access to treatment is key to the successful management of mental health issues, regardless of the therapies prescribed. In 2016, approximately 94,000 Utah women between the ages of 18 and 64 lacked health insurance (10.5%, which is close to the national average). Without access to affordable health care, women are less likely to be diagnosed or treated for mental health issues.
Finally, efforts to increase awareness of mental health disorders and to reduce the stigma surrounding these conditions are crucial. Several organizations are working to promote mental health awareness and well-being in Utah. These and other stakeholders must continue to reduce the stigma and raise overall awareness of mental health concerns, particularly among those who are most vulnerable and least likely to know how to access help when they need it.
First, today we are releasing our 4-year update of the brief titled “The Status of Women Leaders in Utah Business: A 2018 Update.” My co-authors on this report include Shirlayne Quayle (Founder, SASI & Co-founder, Women’s Influence Center) and Robbyn Scribner (Research Fellow, UWLP). Thanks to SCORE Central Utah Chapter for the grant that funded the data collection phase of this research, and also to HRCP (Human Resource Certification Preparation) and the Woodbury School of Business at UVU for their financial support as well. You definitely won’t want to miss reading this brief as the results surprised even me when I was running the stats!
Third, Better Days 2020 is one of our partners, and they are doing amazing things. You have the opportunity to have a sneak peek of the first ever Utah Women’s History Education Curriculum. Be one of the first to witness the unveiling of Better Days 2020’s creative and unique Utah women’s history education curriculum for K-12 students (password: bd2020) currently being piloted by Jordan School District and soon to be publicly launched statewide (and nationwide). For more information on their mission and projects go to www.betterdays2020.org.
Fourth, we also welcome you to attend a community gathering with us in Vernal, Utah on May 15th (6:30-8:00pm) titled, Strengthen Your Impact as Girls & Women. Thanks to Utah State University Uintah Basin for their partnership (Barbara Hammond), and we look forward to a fabulous panel with Sonja Norton (Former Mayor of Vernal), Ronee K. Wopsock (Education Director, Ute Tribe), Becky Williams (Associate Professor of Biology), and Julie May (Owner, Shine Events). We appreciate having a grant from the LDS Foundation to help support the costs of our rural events. If you are interested in hosting one of two rural events in September in your community, let me know. Also, see the events of all women’s groups in the state on the community calendar here.
Fifth, has your organization (company, non-profit, school/school district, agency, etc.) formally taken the ElevateHER Challenge through the Women’s Leadership Institute yet? Here is the link to the list of the over 150 organizations that are participating. With the Challenge, an organization pledges to elevate the stature of women’s leadership and may adapt its own policies within its unique structure to meet the commitments; recommendations are online. In addition, if you are interested in connecting with a women’s group in Utah, here is a comprehensive list.
Finally, I had many responses about my recently edited book, Handbook of Research on Gender and Leadership, so I thought those of you interested in deeper research at the national and global level might enjoy knowing about the Women and Leadership Book Series for which I’ve been the lead co-editor since 2013. There are 6 books published on such topics as women and leadership in higher education, women as global leaders, women and leadership around the world, gender and media, theorizing women and leadership, and gender and communication. I just submitted another book to the publisher this week of women on corporate boards, and it will come out this fall.
Have a great May!
Dr. Susan R. Madsen
Orin R. Woodbury Professor of Leadership and Ethics
Utah Valley University, Woodbury School of Business
The following post is adapted from the Research Snapshot Sexual Harassment: What Utahns Need to Know, published November 1, 2017. To see all referenced sources please view the full Snapshot on our website.
Women who reported sexual harassment, the “silence breakers,” were chosen by Time magazine as the person of the year for 2017
Although workplace sexual harassment has likely been around since the conception of workplaces, and sexual harassment has been illegal in the U.S. for decades, 1 it is safe to say that the issue has never received as much attention as it has since the autumn of 2017.
Sexual Harassment Defined and Quantified
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”
Clear and comprehensive definitions of sexual harassment (including examples) are a key part of efforts to reduce harassment incidents in the workplace. Recent surveys by the EEOC showed that when women were asked generally if they had experienced “sexual harassment” (without defining the term), 25% of women indicated that they had. However, when the term was defined specifically and examples were given, the percentage of women responding affirmatively rose to 40%.
Harassment Targets and Hotspots
Although sexual harassment can happen anywhere and to anyone, certain populations and locations seem to be of particular risk. Over the past 30 years, white women have been the subject of most research concerning sexual harassment, yet women of color are often more likely to be targeted for variety of reasons. According to Equal Rights Advocates, African American women and Latinas are the most likely U.S. women to be among the working poor and employed in low-paying, service occupations, which is where sexual harassment is most frequently reported.
Women in the U.S. who are undocumented immigrants also face a heightened risk, as potential harassers assume (often correctly) that these women would avoid reporting harassment for fear of deportation or other legal repercussions. Race is not the only risk factor related to sexual harassment. A recent survey showed younger women were more likely to say they had experienced sexual harassment than older women. This may be because their youth or professional inexperience may make them seem an easier target, but also because of a difference between generations in defining and discussing these issues.
At its core, harassment of any kind thrives in situations where there is an imbalance of power; hence, a specific population that is disempowered— because of gender, race, economic or educational inequality, age, orientation, or other factors—is more likely to experience harassment in the workplace.
Up to 75% of those who report workplace harassment experience some sort of retaliation at work.
The Costs of Harassment
Sexual harassment—whether or not it is recognized or labeled as such—has serious negative implications for those who experience it. Effects include physical, mental, and emotional problems, such as anxiety, depression, loss of sleep, weight loss or gain, and more. Women who have been harassed also suffer financial hardship, both short term losses from taking sick days or unpaid leave to avoid the harasser, and longer-term financial harm that can stem from loss of productivity, being denied promotions or raises, or quitting their jobs. These negative impacts may be even greater if women report the harassment at work; research shows that up to 75% of those who make such reports experience some workplace retaliation (even though retaliation against one who files a claim is an additional illegal violation).
The costs of sexual harassment are not limited to those who experience it; companies in which harassment occurs may also pay a heavy price. Even though most women do not file charges, EEOC estimates show that the costs to settle or award damages for sexual harassment cases are in the hundreds of millions every year. But this is only a part of the total costs to companies. Loss of productivity from employees being harassed or witnessing harassment, absenteeism, the need to replace employees who quit, low morale among workers, and a damaged reputation within industries can all affect the bottom line for companies when sexual harassment occurs.
What Utahns Can Do
Many companies have anti-harassment policies and include sexual harassment trainings in their on-boarding process. Research over the past 30 years has shown that these policies can vary in effectiveness, and critics have argued that such policies are sometimes merely in place to protect a company in case of litigation.
Yet even companies with the best intentions to prevent workplace harassment can fall short if they rely on formal policies alone to address this issue. Experts agree that if corporations are to combat sexual harassment effectively, the message must come from top leadership, clearly and regularly, that sexual harassment is not tolerated. A one-time, impersonal overview of policy is insufficient and can even be counter-productive, based on the quality of the training. Instead, a culture that supports, values, and respects all employees will continually take opportunities to prevent harassment.
Of course, individuals and other stakeholders must do their part as well. Research has shown that bystanders, especially men, can play a powerful role in stopping workplace sexual harassment. Parents and teachers can instruct and model respectful behaviors and attitudes for young people as they prepare to enter public life, including the workplace. Open discussions of harassment in the media can reduce stigma and empower those who may have feared to come forward with their experiences. Finally, all organizations can recognize the value of diversity in their leadership. Research shows that as more women are in high levels of leadership, sexual harassment declines.
Second, this is your final reminder about our event on March 7, 2018 (6:30-8:30pm) at Utah Valley University (we will also live stream the opening keynote and the workshop for young women). The gathering is titled “Strengthen Your Impact in the Community: Conversations that Matter.” RSVP Online Now, and find more details on our homepage. The keynote will be given by President Matthew and Paige Holland, and then attendees will choose from one of five workshops (presenter information and session descriptions can be found on the event flyer):
Finding Opportunities as Young Women to Serve in the Community
Poverty and Homelessness in Utah: What Can I Do About It?
Sexual Assault in Utah: Shining a Light on a Serious Issue
Promoting Literacy in the Home and Community: We All Have a Part
Essential Tools for Preventing Suicide & Helping to Save a Life
Third, one of our partners, Mormon Women for Ethical Government (MWEG), is holding a 2018 Spring Conference on March 24, 2018 at Brigham Young University. It is titled, “A Significant Force for Good: Empowering Women in Politics and in Life” and is co-sponsored by BYU’s Romney Institute of Public Management. Keynote speakers include Carole Mikita and Dr. Susan Madsen, and there will be many fabulous workshop presenters as well. For more information and to register: https://mwegconference2018.wixsite.com/mwegconf2018. There are still some seats available, and early registration ends tomorrow!
Fourth, the Real Women Run Spring Training is Saturday, April 7, 2018 (8:00 AM – 2:00 PM) at the Thomas S. Monson Center in SLC. This training will be focused on the core skills, strategies, and information needed to run your campaign, and features workshop sessions as well as time for individualized consulting with campaign experts. Attendees who will benefit most include candidates and campaign managers, staff, and volunteers. More information and registration can be found here.
Finally, we have a newly updated list of camps and summer programs for Utah girls and young women (this was a popular feature last winter; please send us links to any others that you know about that are not on our list). Also, if you are in the Heber City area you can join us for an event for girls/women the evening of March 28, 2018. In April I’ll also be speaking at events in Vernal, Ephraim, and St. George, so I hope to meet many of you outside of the Wasatch Front!
Have a great March!
Dr. Susan R. Madsen
Orin R. Woodbury Professor of Leadership and Ethics
Utah Valley University, Woodbury School of Business
First, we will be hosting a workshop for organizational leaders and HR professionals on February 28th (7:30-10:00am) titled “Advancing Gender Equality in the Workplace: What Works.” It will be held at Thanksgiving Point, and I will be presenting the latest research and best practices. There are limited seats with the venue and also a fee to cover the breakfast. The flyer has other details, and you can register online here.
Mindfulness, Embodiment and Leadership—Presence in Leading and Living (Kathie Debenham, Professor of Dance, Movement Analyst and Somatic Practitioner)
Understanding Women’s Negative Interactions with Each Other (Dr. Susan R. Madsen, Professor of Leadership & Ethics, Utah Women & Leadership Project Founder/Director)
You Don’t Have to Wait to Lead as Young Women (Heather Groom, Former Board Member, Utah State Board of Education; Former Deputy Campaign Manager for Governor Gary Herbert) will moderate and the panelists include: 1) Michelle Love-Day (Associate Director, Educational Equity, Granite School District; Former Elementary School Principal); 2) Shelly Neilson (Full-time Mom; Former Student Body President, USU; Small Business Owner); 3) Dayan Bernal (Founder & Former Executive Director of TeensAct; Analyst, Goldman Sachs); and 4) Kylie Tanner (Chief of Staff, Utah Student Organization; Assistant Clubs Coordinator, UVU).
The event is designed for women (12 years and older), and influencers (including men) are welcome to join us too! RSVP Online Now. More details are on the Utah Women & Leadership Project homepage. We plan to live stream/Facebook live the sessions.
Third, we have two new resources: 1) We have started a new initiative titled “What Can I Do?” It is a series to help Utahns in various roles know what to do to engage in efforts to strengthen the impact of Utah girls and women. For the first one, we gathered a group of 25 women CEOs and business leaders to brainstorm what could be done from their roles to help. Their ideas were captured in this two-pager titled, “What Business Leaders Can Do To Strengthen the Impact of Utah Girls and Women.” Please help distribute this to business leaders in your settings. If you want to be involved in future think tank gatherings, let us know. 2) We have just completed a new infographic on “Unpaid Care Work Among Utah Women.” It is based on data from our June 2017 snapshot. Pass it along!
Fourth, Real Women Run’s Winter Training is coming up soon. It is a full-day training featuring workshops for everyone: current candidates, future candidates looking for information on where to start, and women who want to get more involved in public service. It will be held on Saturday, January 13, 2018, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM at Salt Lake Community College, Miller Campus, in Sandy. The general registration is $35, while the student registration is $15. You can register online here. Also, the League of Women Voters and Utah AAUW is hosting their “Annual Legislative Forum” on January 6, 2018 (9:30-11:30am) at the Girl Scouts of Utah building (see flyer for details). See other partner and collaborator events on our community calendar.
Finally, the Women’s Leadership Institute and Action Utah have partnered to offer a session titled, “Women’s Advocacy Seminar: Impact Policies that Impact Women.” It will be held on January 10 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm. You can learn about community advocacy and how women can impact good legislation supporting women and family economic prosperity during the upcoming 2018 State Legislative Session.
Have a great January!
Dr. Susan R. Madsen
Orin R. Woodbury Professor of Leadership and Ethics
Utah Valley University, Woodbury School of Business
Unpaid care work in Utah was disscussed after the release of a research snapshot title Unpaid Care Work Among Utah Women. The snapshot details shocking statics that demonstrate the amount of time and work that women perform entirely unpaid. Thought leaders came together to establish potential steps to change the status of unpaid care work. What follows are their recommendations organized by category. See the comprehensive list here. Clearly, there is much to be done.
Financial incentives and support
Explore elder care costs as eligible for flex plans, without requiring that the person be a legal dependent.
Explore a similar tax credit to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for elder care, again without requiring legal dependence.
Work to eliminate taxes on social security benefits.
Extend retirement income tax credit for next generation of retirees (current AARP policy priority). This is a highly needed source of tax relief.
Have hospitals provide support resources to caregivers who give care for elderly individuals. Same with pediatricians providing information and resources to parents.
Explore incentives to support “aging- in-place” initiatives that incorporate quality home-based care services.
Continue to explore potential flexibilities in state interpretation of federal Medicaid regulations that might benefit caregivers by benefiting the elders and others they care for.
Ensure that Telehealth uniformity becomes the standard for all insurers.
Develop training and support for caregivers through apps, social media, and other online sources.
Creation of economic opportunity
Especially relevant is the need to value care more.
Expand respite provision – there are economic/business opportunities in this area.
Perhaps family members who provide care could receive payment, exploring these options.
Ensure quality and safety standards for adult daycare and other caregiving services.
Develop online caregiving classes and support groups. This could be developed through apps, social media, and online.
There needs resources for men to understand the importance of caregiving.
Advocacy and shaping attitudes
While there is some awareness on this issue, there is a need to increase public awareness and to reframe caregiving as valuable for the whole family and communities,
Additionally, there is a need to teach that caregiving is not a gendered role or issue.
Need resources for men to both understand the importance of caregiving, as well as increase the social acceptance of men providing care.
Focus on workplace culture and attitudes that support taking paid leave and other caregiving options when they are available.
Use social media – perhaps an “I share” campaign around men’s involvement in caregiving and household work. Need to help Utah “catch up” with some of the national trends on men and women sharing caregiving and other household work.
Touch points for increasing public awareness – schools, pediatricians, senior centers, and faith communities.
Laws, policies, regulations
Pursue work-family leave policies that provide flexibility for caregivers who want/need to keep their job.
Explore businesses/companies that are being innovative and creating policies/practices to support caregivers. Encourage more strategic thinking around these issues in workplaces.
Create economic/tax incentives for innovative businesses.
Research and data
Researchers partner with organizations to help pilot interventions and make their programs more effective. They need to show outcomes and evidence, so scholars and practitioners need to come together.
Over the weekend the Utah Women and Leadership Project hosted the fall session of She Talks Utah a leadership speaker and dialogue series. Five inspirational women from around the state spoke on this season’s theme: Finding our voices and the courage to use them. Each speaker had a unique take on what it means to tap into one’s unique voice. The evening was a powerful reminder of how difficult it can be for women to first, identify their authentic voice and second, to have the confidence to have it be heard.
Brooke Walker, host and executive producer of Studio 5 KSL TV shared her journey in broadcast journalism. She recounted a story from early in her career. When she was given the chance to cover breaking news on the air it was scary and exhilarating. In that moment, her producer directed a terse question at her, “Kid, can you do it?” She could, and she did, and she continued to all the way through an Emmy-nominated and award-winning career. “Validate your own voice,” she says, don’t count on others for your confidence.
Shannon Hales, a NYT best-selling author of over 25 books, including the Newbery Honor award winner Princess Academy, continued the theme of self-validation. Her vulnerable and heartfelt presentation captivated the audience. She shared her youthful goals and that of wanting to be beautiful, which eventually fell by wayside when she realized the difference between “do” and “be.” The aspiration to write and become a mother were far more fulfilling than statically being beautiful. As a successful author, there were still people and messages that pressed certain expectations. For example, not working once she became a mother. “I’ve been fed so many lies by so many people that just weren’t true,” she says of having to choose between parenting and working. “I love both. And I can do both.” Indeed, she does, claiming that the naysayers motivate her to continue to do both.
Another woman that successfully does both is Vanessa Quigley, Co-founder and Chatbooker-in-chief of Chatbooks.com and mom to seven. She started Chatbooks with husband when, in a heart-wrenching moment, her preschool aged son confided in her that he didn’t want to grow up as he clutched a “yearbook” his teacher made for the class.
She saw the value in physically holding onto cherished memories, despite others telling her that print was dead. At times it felt and sounded crazy but she kept going. “Be you while being persistent in your vision,” she said. Authenticity is important, is resonates with others. Even though she’s never felt like the most “techy” woman it doesn’t matter to Vanessa. There are no rules about what you have to be in order to succeed, “Make the role your own, just be you.” Amazingly, 70% of Chatbooks’ staff are women, 98% of those are mothers.
Another inspiring example of authenticity is State Senator Deirdre Henderson, and Senate Rules Chair. Her life in politics started when she was willing to make phone calls to delegates for Jason Chaffetz’s Congressional campaign. Her assignment quickly evolved and eventually grew into a campaign manager positon. The exciting, fast paced world of politics can be terrifying. However, the way Senator Henderson would never cut herself off from opportunity due to fear. “Fear is never a good reason to do something,” she says. Rather than lauding perfection she says, “There is bravery in failure, you must be willing to fail.” She ended by reminding the audience of the importance of using your political voice.
Finally, Jenny Oaks Baker, Grammy nominated and Billboard No. 1 performer spoke about drawing on her faith to develop her balance being a mother and performer. She encouraged women to absorb as much education and training to prepare for unexpected obstacles in life, “I would encourage everyone to try and receive all the training and education possible to develop yourself to be ready for whatever life may throw at you. Take advantage of all the opportunities for study and growth that you can find.” She wasn’t sure about where her career would take her, so she took classes and developed
skills in many areas to maintain a well-rounded resume. When impostor syndrome rears its ugly head draw on your experience and ambition to push through. Jenny wrapped up the evening with a powerful solo on the violin, accompanied on the piano by her 14 year old daughter.
The Utah educated women blogs are an effort to shine the spotlight on incredible women around the state, the Utah Women and Leadership Project is selecting one woman per month to be featured here and all of our social media platforms. These inspiring women come from all walks of life. They’re mothers, entrepreneurs, educators, doctors, teachers, students. Their stories here are meant give public recognition for their hard work and provide a relatable story for you, our reader.
This month’s Utah educated women is Jenny McCulloch of Springville, Utah. Jenny’s passion for education started when she was a young student, volunteering in classrooms and preschools for kids with disabilities. Jenny also worked in Title 1 schools as an adult, teaching children with special needs. Upon graduating in 2005 from BYU with a B.S. in Family Life with an emphasis in Human Development, she declared herself retired and became a stay at home mom to her toddler and newborn.
Ten years and two more kids later, Jenny re-entered the workforce as a copywriter and content manager in the marketing department of a private company. Her work focused on social engagement, brand messaging, online and print content development, and writing catalog copy. She is currently learning as much as she can about women’s issues and education on a local and global scale while planning her next move.
UWLP: How did you know or decide your current career path?
Jenny: I had a pretty clear life plan until I was a married, pregnant college student on bed rest, unable to complete the student teaching requirement of my education degree. I changed my major to Family Life and graduated that semester, intending to go to graduate school and sort it out later. Between personal blogging and helping my self-employed husband start his career, writing and marketing had become my qualifications. I took a job with flexible hours that I could work from home. After teaching in some paid or unpaid capacity for over 2 decades, my plan was to start working part-time to get my feet wet and eventually teach full time in my local school district.
UWLP: How have your career passions changed and how did you manage those changes?
Jenny: As Sheryl Sandberg says, “careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.” My favorite part of my job turned out to be connecting with other women and helping them find their voice in the workplace, advocating for better pay and better jobs. I was surprised to realize that I didn’t want to go back to the classroom setting. I want to use marketing and social engagement skills I’ve gained to help teach and advocate for women.
UWLP: Briefly tell us about your life outside school/work
Jenny: I love to read and I love the outdoors, so I like to spend as much time as I can outside reading. My husband and I have 4 active children that we’ve conditioned to think sleeping in the dirt is the best ever. We’re coming off a challenging year for our family, so this school year I’m homeschooling our children so we can spend more time traveling, camping, and creating positive memories while they are still young enough to want to hang out together.
“Make yourself heard and seen. When I was teaching a hard to wrangle class I started wearing a bright lipstick or loud tights so they’d at least get into the habit of looking my direction when I was speaking. The same applies to your work. Figure out how to make yourself seen.”
UWLP: What has your experience been like being a woman/mother in your chosen field?
Jenny: I have had both wonderful and terrible experiences. I had to hide my first pregnancy to get a job working at a school, but once I was there my employers were very supportive as I sorted out my maternity leave. When I began working in marketing, my boss was a woman. She allowed me flexibility and let me bring my preschooler to the office on occasion. I also unfortunately witnessed and experienced overt sexism in the company culture, which negatively affected how I and other women were promoted, compensated, and treated. That experience helped fuel my desire to advocate for women.
UWLP: What advice would you give to women starting out in your same career field?
Jenny: I wish I could give out cat posters with Hamilton song lyrics to inspire and motivate you all! For women graduating in education or the social sciences, get work experience. If you plan on taking a break to raise children, get work experience. I cannot reiterate this enough. It is so much easier to ask for flexibility once you’ve established yourself in some way. Any experience is better than no experience. Network and find a mentor. Take someone to lunch and pick their brain, or tag along to a lunch and soak it all in.
I would also say, don’t undervalue or undersell yourself on resumes or in conversation. You’re more talented and more qualified than you realize, you’re just not in the habit of selling yourself. Do it.
Lastly, make yourself heard and seen. When I was teaching a hard to wrangle class I started wearing a bright lipstick or loud tights so they’d at least get into the habit of looking my direction when I was speaking. The same applies to your work. Figure out how to make yourself seen.
Who inspires you? Submit your nomination for a Utah educated women of the Month here.
Robbyn Scribner works within the areas of development and grant writing for the Utah Women in Leadership Project at Utah Valley University. She holds a Master’s degree in English with an emphasis in composition and rhetoric from Brigham Young University, and a Bachelor’s degree (also from BYU) in European Studies. Robbyn specializes in promoting excellence in writing; she has taught university writing at all levels and co-directed a cross-curricular writing tutoring program at BYU. She has also led seminars and workshops for scholars in various fields, training them on teaching and incorporating more writing in their specific disciplines. Robbyn has also worked as a copy-editor and researcher for various academic and professional projects. Most recently, she has been researching and writing on issues affecting women and careers, with an emphasis on women who’ve taken time away from the workforce and are looking to return.
In the fall of 2014, my family and I (all rabid volleyball fans), watched with great excitement as the BYU women’s volleyball team, not expected to go deep in the NCAA tournament, advanced all the way to the championship match–the first time ever for an unseeded team.
The BYU team’s motto through the tournament, playing off their ubiquitous single-letter moniker, was “Y NOT US?” Commentators and volleyball fans across the country had many answers for such a question—this team wasn’t from a power conference, they didn’t have a long legacy of winning like many of the perennial favorites, and their regular season play hadn’t put them in a position to shine.
Yet this team ignored the nay-sayers and fought to the bitter end (and it was a bit bitter—they lost the championship match). But they progressed farther than anyone thought possible—all while boldly asking: Y not us?
Sometimes as women interested in leadership we need to ask ourselves the same question. Again, there are plenty of nay-sayers; sheer numbers tell us it’s difficult for women to reach the highest echelons of business, politics, academia, and entertainment. Cultural and social norms can make it feel like a woman’s place isn’t in leadership, and sometimes the little voices in our heads tell us we just aren’t good enough.
And yet we see a need. We’ve learned that countries where women have autonomy are more peaceful and prosperous, that businesses with higher numbers of women executives are more profitable, that decisions made by both women and men working together in politics are better decisions. So, why not women? Why not us?
If you made it to this blog, chances are you already recognize the need for women leaders and see our potential for good within the state and beyond. Studies have shown that women are sometimes more assertive in their negotiations and advocacy if they feel they are asking for someone else—working for the good of a team. I think that’s part of our strength as women—we look out for each other, root for one another. As we study, strive, and work together, we can grow in confidence and when we see the need for someone to step up and lead we will be ready to ask, “Yes, why not us?” I am lucky enough to have a personal and professional network full of incredibly talented, brilliant, and passionate women! I know so many women who already have made, and will continue to make, a tremendous impact.
But as individual women, we must eventually ask an even more important, and much more difficult, question: “Why not me?”
When I read books like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, which reminds us of how much we need more women leaders at the very top, and essays like “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” by Anne-Marie Slaughter, which reminds us how very difficult it is to be at the top, I feel torn. I know we need women to fill these roles, but the selfish part of me wants some other fabulous woman to step up to the plate and let me off the hook.
My hesitancy forces another question: “But if not me, then who?” Anyone who has watched a bitter election or seen a CEO take the fall for a failing company knows that leadership, while rewarding, isn’t necessarily for the faint of heart. It’s a risk, and it definitely takes both preparation and courage.
If we are ever to have a strong contingent of “US,” we need to start with a number of individual “MEs.” No, we don’t all need to be the COO of Facebook, or a director at the State Department—we can start where we are, where we see the need today: as the first woman on the city council, as one of the few women majoring in the electrical engineering program, as the only woman entrepreneur going after that limited pool of angel funding. Hopefully, as more and more individual women face the question “why not me?” it will become easier to do. When it comes to women and leadership, there is strength in numbers. I’m challenging myself (and I invite you to join me) in saying “there’s no reason this shouldn’t be me.” Let’s go all in.
The Utah Women in Leadership Project teamed up with Utah Education Network (UEN) for the Utah Women’s Speaker and Dialogue Series, an event which hosted four speakers tackling issues pertinent to the success of women and girls around the state.
This post will highlight Sui Lang Panoke and her presentation on social media and finding your voice. Sui is the founder of Women Politics Media, and RE-Think Tank. Through these organizations, Sui works to train leaders, primarily women, emerging leaders and people of color in communication and advocacy through personal empowerment. Sui is an expert in personal branding and branding strategy. She shared tips and inspiration for finding your voice and creating a personal brand. Social media in all its forms have permeated daily life. The necessity to engage online has increased as business, advocacy and sociality have become more dependent on connecting to others virtually. Sui outlined the four C’s of social media:
Connect – social life
Courtship – finding romantic connections
College – educational engagement
Career – forming professional connections
Each category of online usage may have both positive and negative impacts, depending on the content posted. For example, it would be beneficial to have and maintain a professional profile online for potential employers to view. However, you may make a negative impression if your other social media profiles demonstrate unbecoming behavior. The key to rethinking your social media presence is to understand your unique power. You have the power to choose how and where you engage online. You control your image, voice and identity on social media and not the other way around. If you want to get the most out of social media Sui recommends developing a true, authentic voice that fuels your personal brand. To do this you must answer some tough questions, broken down into three categories.
Who are you? How do you see yourself? Identity is difficult to define and often takes on aspects that others have given to us. Try to look a little deeper and think who you are if all your labels were stripped. Are you intensely passionate about education? Are you, at your core, a creative leader? Write out three “I am…” statements and see where it leads you.
Now that you know who you are, what exactly do you have to say? You have a chance to project your message to the world so what will it be? Think about how you see the world and how you can mold that perspective into a succinct and consistent voice. Developing a strong personal brand starts with projecting your best authentic self. Spend time deciding who you want to be heard by. How can you tailor your authentic voice to resonate with you your preferred audience? How do you fill in the statements, “I see…” and “I think…”?
Let your unique identity and authentic voice inform the image of your personal brand. Personal branding answers the question, “How do others see you?” Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Engage with a diverse range of allies in the process of determining your brand. Let your identity, voice, images, behaviors, and connections paint the picture of your personal brand.
It is extremely easy to compare yourself, especially your faults, to others on social media. Avoid this by prioritizing your identity first and your social presence second. Do not chase an image you can’t live up to that is inauthentic. Remember, you are empowered to create and control this image.
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