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Several local organizations want to see more women running for political office in Utah. The state has a tremendous gender gap when it comes to public service, with just 16.3 percent of state legislative members being women. And currently no women hold statewide office in Utah or represent the state in the U.S. Congress.
Real Women Run is a nonpartisan effort that was convened by several local organizations and elected officials. The group will hold a free, all-day training session to help women learn the ins and outs of campaigning. The training will be held on the Miller Campus of Salt Lake Community College on Saturday, March 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah is one of the organizations involved in the Real Women Run coalition. “At The Hinckley Institute, one of our key focuses is participation, and when we see statistics showing that a key demographic—in fact, the majority demographic—is not well represented, that is concerning for us,” said Lindsay Zizumbo, program manager at the institute.
Zizumbo said the perspective of women is often missing in Utah politics—and that lack begins at the grassroots level. She noted that while Utah women vote at a higher rate than Utah men, they tend not to participate in the caucus/convention system, and so have little say in selecting delegates or candidates.
Several impediments hold women back from seeking elected office, said Zizumbo, including cultural barriers and a lack of confidence. “Oftentimes, women just don’t feel qualified,” she said, although she believes that feeling is rarely justified.
In fact, Zizumbo said executive leadership experience translates very well into politics. “If you can lead in the corporate world, you can lead in the public sphere,” she said.
The Real Women Run training event is intended to help women “learn how to make a difference in politics,” said Zizumbo. It’s not just for women who want to run for office, but for those who want to get involved in any way—lobbying for important causes, fundraising or volunteering with campaigns.
For women who are seriously considering throwing their hat in the ring, the event will also cover topics like campaign management and strategy; budget, finance and fundraising; and social and traditional media.
Keynote speakers include Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig, U.S. Congressional Candidate Donna McAleer and West Jordan Mayor Melissa Johnson.
Panelists include South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood, Box Elder County Commissioner LuAnn Adams, Utah Senator Luz Robles, Salt Lake City Councilwoman Jill Remington Love and Utah Representative Angela Romero.
The Real Women Run training session is perfectly timed to prepare women for the municipal elections this year. It’s also a good time for women to begin preparing for the 2014 elections, said Zizumbo. “It’s never too soon to start thinking about it,” she said.
Real Women Run was launched by a coalition that includes YWCA Salt Lake City, The Hinckley Institute, Salt Lake Community College, Vision 2020, AAUW, League of Women Voters of Utah, current and former elected female officials and representatives from political parties in Utah, and other organizations that support women.
Participants are welcome to register up until the day of the event. To register, visit www.realwomenrun.org.