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Utah ranks 40 out of 50 on women's representation in state legislatures

a view from above of the Utah state House, people sitting at desks and talking with each other.
Mike Renlund
Women make up less than one-third of Utah House Representatives in 2023.

A new report from the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) ranks U.S. states according to the number of women serving in their legislatures. Debbie Walsh, director of the CAWP, said women now hold 32.7% of all legislative seats nationwide.

“Which is an improvement and a record. But still, technically less than a third of all the state legislators in the United States are currently women,” Walsh said.

This year, Walsh said, two states reached gender parity, or equal representation of men and women, in their state legislative chambers.

“So, in Nevada, almost 62% of the legislature is female. Fifty percent of the Colorado legislature is women. And in Arizona, they're quite close with 47.8% of the legislative seats being held by women. And so, you will notice the pattern there of western states,” Walsh said.

Utah, in contrast, ranks 40 out of 50 states, with 25% of legislative seats held by women. Walsh said the bottom 10 states for women’s representation are usually more conservative states.

“And I don't even mean just politically conservative, but socially conservative is where women do not fare as well," Walsh said.

“There's more of a belief in the more stereotypical roles for women, and still, political leadership breaks some of those stereotypes. So, it is harder for women to break through and to serve in these elected positions,” Walsh said.

When women run for office, Walsh said, they do as well as men in comparable races. The issue is recruiting women to run and supporting them along the way. The CAWP partners with programs like Utah’s nonpartisan initiative “Real Women Run” to give women the tools they need to run for office.

“It's in large part about getting women more politically engaged and seeing themselves as having the potential,” Walsh said.

Caroline Long is a science reporter at UPR. She is curious about the natural world and passionate about communicating her findings with others. As a PhD student in Biology at Utah State University, she spends most of her time in the lab or at the coyote facility, studying social behavior. In her free time, she enjoys making art, listening to music, and hiking.