By Susan Madsen and Melinda Colton
Researchers from the Utah State University Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) conducted a statewide study to establish a baseline of public perceptions of the awareness, understanding, and attitudes regarding the challenges of Utah women and girls. The survey, conducted in the fall of 2023, focused on five areas: education, community engagement, safety and security, health and well-being, and the workplace.
The 80-question survey was based on existing literature and survey instruments, guidance from experts, and baseline data needed by leaders of A Bolder Way Forward. This new initiative invites Utahns to break down the barriers that keep women and girls from thriving.
In the coming months, 19 research summaries will be published to provide Utah leaders and residents with insights into Utahns’ current perceptions.
The UWLP recently published the first three research summaries: Childcare and Pre-K Programs, Child Sexual Abuse and the Gender Pay Gap. Data were collected from Oct, 24 to Nov. 30, 2023, and 3,505 Utahns ages 18 and older participated. The following are highlights of the research summaries that will be used to set goals and metrics for A Bolder Way Forward.
Childcare and Pre-K Programs – Through the years, childcare for Utah families has been viewed as a “private” instead of a “public” issue, but Utahns’ perspectives have changed. According to this research, most understand and believe that childcare is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Survey results included:
- 1,396 Utahns selected “strongly agree,” and another 1,265 either “somewhat agree” or “agree” that access to childcare is an issue that families face in Utah.
- 70.7% of respondents acknowledged that childcare providers are professionals.
- Most respondents believe that childcare and pre-K programs are important in a child’s early education.
- Most participants believe that government has a role in addressing childcare challenges in Utah.
“If we want to help more Utah women and their families thrive, the challenges around childcare affordability, access, and quality demand greater attention,” said Susan Madsen, founding director of the UWLP and author of the research summaries.
Child Sexual Abuse – According to data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the prevalence of sexual child abuse in Utah is higher than nationally – 13.9% in Utah vs. 11.6% nationally.
Survey results indicated:
- 40.8% of respondents do not believe that child sexual abuse is a problem in Utah, while 24.6% were neutral.
- 46.8% agreed that child sexual abuse is preventable.
- 48.1% agreed that Utah’s prevalence of child sexual abuse may be higher than national levels.
- 35.8% agreed that most child sexual abuse is perpetrated by another minor or peer.
“Through the years, child sexual abuse has seldom been discussed openly, but Utahns’ perspectives are finally shifting,” said Madsen. “Utah’s challenges with child sexual abuse must be addressed immediately. It is imperative that we raise awareness and take action to protect our children.”
Gender Pay Gap – Madsen said that Utah’s gender pay gap has been a frequent topic covered in the media and discussed among women and business leaders, yet the topic has been excused and dismissed by many Utah decision-makers.
Newly released findings include:
- 84.1% of respondents agreed that a pay gap exists in Utah.
- 62.1% of participants agreed that Utah women make less money than their male counterparts, even when they have the same/similar experience, education and position. Only 18.1% disagreed while the others were unsure.
- 71.7% of Utahns disagreed that Utah’s pay gap exists because of women’s own choices (e.g., career breaks, educational choices, lack of experience, job industry).
- 84.6% of respondents agreed that Utah leaders should act to close the gender pay gap.
“This research has found that Utahns’ perspectives are clear,” said Madsen. “There is wide recognition that not only is there a pay gap, but that Utah leaders need to address it. The negative impact of the gender pay gap on Utah women and families has been well-documented. It’s time to act now.”
For the eighth year in a row, WalletHub has named Utah the worst state in the nation for women’s equality. The overarching goal of A Bolder Way Forward is to help more Utah girls, women and families thrive.
“When we strengthen the impact of Utah girls and women, we strengthen everyone,” Madsen concluded.
Click here for further information about the UWLP.