New Organization Enhances Opportunities

A working woman in Utah can expect to make $663,440 less than her male colleagues over the course of her 40-year career, according to an April 2016 study by the National Women’s Law Center. The findings, based on U.S. Census Bureau estimates for wages between 2010 and 2014, reveal Utah now has the nation’s second-largest gender wage gap.

By Heidi Prokop

Photos by Jess Leonard

But a group of business, civic and academic leaders will not settle for this bleak ranking. To combat the trend, former Utah senator Pat Jones was asked to lead a new organization in 2015 dedicated to enhancing opportunities for women in Utah — the Women’s Leadership Institute.

“The tone of the organization is constructive and positive, and that’s been the magic sauce for us,” says Jones, CEO of the nonprofit group rallying the private and public sector to help counter the trends.

 

Seven-point Commitment

The institute developed a seven-point commitment called the ElevateHER Challenge (see sidebar) that outlines ways organizations can enhance women’s leadership in the state. During a May 2015 launch event, business and civic leaders — including Zions Bancorporation Chairman and CEO Harris Simmons, Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson, and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert — formally accepted the ElevateHER Challenge.

“Men are very involved and engaged in this effort,” Jones says. “Half of our board is made up of men. We look at men as allies and advocates in elevating women within an organization.”

To date, 94 companies and organizations have accepted the ElevateHER challenge, including eight that made the commitment during a launch of a Northern Utah WLI affiliate called E3 (Educate, Empower, Enrich).

 

Educate, Empower, Enrich

“We seek to be the collaboration tool for our community,” says Lori Aston, E3 chairperson. “Our goal is not to recreate the wheel, but to make sure the mom in North Ogden knows about a resource to help with workforce re-entry in Layton, or that a middle-management leader in Roy has access to development training at Weber State University that she would not have otherwise heard about.”

Jones believes organizations that support the ElevateHER Challenge will move the needle for the state. “It’s the Utah way to work together and find solutions, and those who take the pledge are helping to create new opportunities for future generations of women in this state,” she says.

WLI also created a political development series designed to help more women run for public office, with 28 participants completing the first six-month program and another session planned to start this fall. WLI also offers high-level executive training to help women prepare for the C-suite.