Making Waves: Three Utah Women Running for U.S. Congress

To many in Utah, the name Martha Hughes Cannon is unfamiliar.

Cannon supported women’s suffrage, earned a medical degree and advocated for a state-wide health policy before serving as the first female senator in Utah’s State Senate in 1896.

Now, 118 years later, women in Utah politics are about as unheard of as Cannon. This election season is about to change that. In November three women, Luz Robles, Donna McAleer and Mia Love, will all appear on the ballot for United States Congress in Districts 1, 2 and 4, respectively, to serve as Utah representatives.

Morgan Lyon Cotti, local program manager for the U’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, said more women were involved in Utah politics in the 1990s than now. She said the lack of women in politics today is a problem that needs to be solved.

“Research shows that women tend to run for office less often,” Cotti said. “However, in the instances when they do, they tend to win just as often as men.”

The question then stands that if women tend to win as often as men, why do they not run for office more regularly? Susan Madsen, a professor of leadership and ethics at Utah Valley University, said the answer lies in what she calls a “crisis of confidence.”

“Although no specific research has been performed,” Madsen said, “the educated assumption is that women are not identifying themselves as being in a leadership role. It can also be said that women need more encouragement to get involved in politics. At this point not enough women are being encouraged to get involved.”

Sophia DiCaro, a Republican candidate for Utah House District 31, said there are “ups and downs along the path” for women going into politics.

“Women tend to not like confrontation,” she said. “As a result women need to be encouraged to get involved. When it comes right down to it, women just need to jump in. Getting involved in politics involves a leap of faith, but the rewards are great.”

DiCaro hopes the public will recognize the women currently involved in state and national politics as a way to address the problem, rather than focusing on the “void.”

Madsen said women in politics are an asset to the system. She said there are important aspects of government that only a woman can bring to the table.

“Women tend to be more collaborative and teamwork-oriented,” Madsen said. “The world of politics is an aggressive field, which could help to explain why the public tends to see men in a position of leadership more than women; however, in order for politics and government to be effective there needs to be a balance between the two types of characteristics.”

m.royal@chronicle.utah.edu

@mary_royal

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