This month, the Salt Lake Chamber celebrates Women’s History Month. This national celebration is a time to remember the historical achievement of women and to work to promote female leaders of the future.
Utah has a long history of powerful female leaders, some of whom we’ve had to say goodbye to in recent years. These trailblazers paved the way, not only for women in politics, but also for the betterment of our state’s education system, affordable housing, health care, community development and Utah’s overall economic development.
Olene Smith Walker was Utah’s first female governor. She served in that position from 2003 to 2005. After her passing in 2015, Gov. Gary Herbert said the following, “While raising her seven children, running her own business and serving in the legislature, Gov. Walker also attended graduate school, making her Utah’s only Ph.D. governor. She also holds the distinction of being the longest-serving lieutenant governor in Utah history. Wherever she went, she broke down barriers so future generations could follow her lead.”
Another first—Deedee Corradini. Corradini was Salt Lake City’s first female mayor from 1992 to 2000. She is remembered for helping bring the Winter Olympics to Utah, and as president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA, she led the push to get women’s ski jumping in the Olympics for the first time at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
In 2015, we also said goodbye to Utah’s first woman Speaker of the House. Becky Lockhart represented Provo in the Utah State Legislature for 16 years. She was known for her consensus building, as well as her grit and determination.
But before Walker, Corradini and Lockhart, there was Cannon. Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon was another of Utah’s firsts—she was the first woman state senator in the United States and won her seat in 1896 by defeating her own husband. Cannon was a highly trained physician who earned four medical degrees before the age of 25. Once in office, she focused on public health legislation, child welfare issues and is credited with helping establish the Utah State Board of Health.
Cannon, a pioneer in more ways than one, will soon have her statue on display in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Utah’s lawmakers recently voted to honor the nation’s first female state senator and leader in the suffragette movement by placing her statue at the nation’s capitol in 2020, on the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.
While it is important to honor the impressive contributions women have made to this nation and our great state, it may be even more important that we commit to investing in the advancement of women and in cultivating the female leaders of tomorrow. It is for this reason the Salt Lake Chamber is pushing to find ways to ensure more women can enter, and stay in, Utah’s workforce.
When you look at the statistics, Utah women have higher workforce participation rates compared to women in the U.S. until the age of 25. After 25, the number of Utah women in the workforce drops below national averages. Where did the female workforce go? While there are many answers to this question, one of the easiest to identify is family creation. The Chamber believes that if we remove barriers that inhibit parents from joining the labor force, like access to affordable child care and paid family leave, we could empower a greater number of women to participate in Utah’s workforce.
Families are an important part of Utah’s economy. We want all people to be able to work, provide and care for their families and contribute to our state’s economic growth. That’s why the Chamber is supporting HB 278, Paid Family and Medical Leave Tax Credit. This bill creates a tax credit for employers offering paid family and medical leave equal to 3 percent of the amount claimed under the federal employer tax credit for paid family and medical leave. By encouraging employers to provide expanded leave policies we can both support Utah families and further improve our state’s economy.
This Women’s History Month the Salt Lake Chamber is focused on workforce and families. How are you celebrating this month? How is your company or business working to promote diversity in the workplace and emphasizing the value of women in leadership positions? This month, let’s honor the great women of history by working to ensure many more women will be added to Utah’s history books.