Utah Ranked Last in Women’s Equality, Patricia Jones Looks to Change That

By April VeVea

In 2020, Utah once again found itself ranked as the worst state for women’s equality, partly due to workforce inequality. Hoping to tackle these issues, the Saint George Chamber of Commerce and Young Professionals of Saint George invited Patricia Jones to speak at Atwood Innovation Plaza.

The Saint George Chamber of Commerce hosted the Level Up Luncheon in conjunction with the Young Professionals of Saint George at Atwood Innovation Plaza on September 9th with former Utah State Senator Patricia Jones as the keynote speaker. Entitled “The New Urgency of Women’s Leadership,” Jones’ speech focused on bringing more women into the workforce. The luncheon brought in leaders from the area, including Representative V. Lowry Snow, Mayor Jon Pike and Washington City Councilman Kurt Ivie.

Jones opened the luncheon by expounding upon both her love of the area and the announcement that she would be working with the Saint George Chamber of Commerce, saying, “I always love to come to Saint George. My husband and I have had a house down here for 35 years. I am excited to work with the Chamber.”

Jones detailed how, in 2014, she decided not to run again for her seat in the Utah Senate, instead shifting her focus to women in the workforce--especially after seeing Utah ranked as one of the Five Places Women Shouldn’t Spend Their Tax Dollars, alongside Saudia Arabia and Turkey. Jones became the CEO of the Women’s Leadership Institute after its formation in 2015, a group focused on equalizing women in the workplace. Before anyone thought the group tries to kick men out of the workplace, Jones clarified that “half of [The Women’s Leadership Institute’s] board is men,” expounding on the need for men and women to work together for female equality in the workplace.

Jones discussed why women leave the workforce, and how to combat the issues they face to curtail leaving. For example, Jones showed how 65% of women felt excluded from their former work environment. Bosses can tackle these feelings by embracing diversity and accepting diverging opinions.

Audible gasps were heard when Jones pointed out how women make up over 50% of the workforce, yet only 5.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are female.

Are women excluded from leadership roles due to proven monetary losses? Do female leaders exude negative leadership qualities? The answer, of course, is no to both questions. Jones showed how women actually bring in more money, increasing company equity on average by 30%. Jones also cited the famous 2011 study by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman on leadership qualities and which sex tends to exemplify them, showing how women outscore men in 12 out of 16 criteria, including communication and problem solving, and tied in an additional three criterion [Author’s note: Zenger and Folkman completed the same study again in 2019, expanding to 19 different criterion; women outscored men in 17].

Jones told me, “Washington County is becoming much more diverse… it’s ready to have more diverse workforces,” and community leaders agree with her. Representative Snow said he is “very supportive of having women in leadership roles. We represent people, and we need all types to help.” Mayor Pike echoed these sentiments, adding, “I don’t want women to feel limited. I have four daughters, and I don’t want them to feel limited to ‘traditional’ female jobs. I want to

show our girls, my daughters, that the world is theirs. I want to point out opportunities. I am proud to introduce [people] to women in this room.”

How can companies hire more women? One resource Jones recommended utilizing is the Women’s Leadership Institute’s ElevateHER Corporate Challenge. Companies sign a pledge form with six distinct categories for improvement: increasing the percentage of women in senior leadership roles, increase retention rates for women at all levels, increase the number of women on an organization’s Board of Directors while also encouraging female employees to serve on corporate and community boards, monitor and close pay gaps, establish or enhance a mentor or sponsorship program for women and urge women to run for public office. Over 300 companies and groups, including Zions Bancorporation, Brigham Young University and Maverick, have already signed up. The best part? It’s completely free.

If you would like more information on the ElevateHer Corporate Challenge, please click here.

If you would like more information on Atwood Innovation Plaza, please click here.

For more information on the St George Chamber of Commerce, please click here

For more information on the Young Professionals of Saint George, please click here.Blog