Have Utah’s Senate seats hardened into a “concrete ceiling” that women will never break?

Of the six seats in Utah Congressional Delegation, none are currently held by women. And even though Utah has made some progress at the state level and in the United States House with the number of women elected, the state has never chose to send a woman to the United States Senate.

After the primaries, that won’t change in 2022.

The two Republican challengers, Ally Isom and Becky Edwards, were pushed aside when incumbent Senator Mike Lee won 61.9% of primary votes.

When the results came in on election night, Edwards pondered in front of a crowd of his supporters.

“Watching so many young people here tonight, I think of them and where they will be in six years and 12 years,” she said. “And I think, man, I hope that little 4-year-old girl doesn’t turn 50 and we’re still in the same situation.”

It’s only a matter of time, Edwards thinks, before Utah votes for a woman.

Although a discouraging result, Dr. Susan R. Madsen, founding director of the Utah Women and Leadership Projectsaid Utah had a few homegrown wins.

We have made progress with the entry of women into mayoral positions and other types of positions,” she said. “But we are really struggling to break that glass ceiling. And maybe it’s still more than a glass ceiling, maybe it’s a concrete ceiling, but we have to do something to move it forward in order to have a better representation.

Madsen said Utah just wasn’t ready. She, like Edwards, thinks it might take a few more years, and part of that has to do with perception, like what people think a leader looks like.

“National research indicates that 70-75% of people imagine a man,” she says.

If more of Utah’s male leaders threw their support behind the challengers, Madsen said, it might have made a difference in the primary.

“If more men who were CEOs of companies, who were really the most important voices that people looked at, if they had invested a lot of money and made themselves heard, [if] they weren’t nervous,” she said. “A lot of our male leaders knew they didn’t want to go with Mike Lee, but that was who people were giving money to. So they kind of followed or just withheld money at all the world.

But some people are not sure that electing a woman is enough to change things.

Deja Gaston, member of the Party for Socialism and Liberationsaid it didn’t matter that the candidates were women as they did not represent her political beliefs.

“Regardless of the fact of their gender, I think ultimately in terms of the politics and the positions they put forward, we’re still not going to help the working class ultimately,” Gatson said.

She said many people are disengaged from voting because they don’t see their elected representatives deliver on their campaign promises – no matter who shows up. Although Gaston considers the vote important, she says it’s not the end of the world as many politicians have portrayed it.

“Voting is not the only solution. There are much more powerful basic solutions,” she said. “And I mean, again, going back to the point where the vote was won in the first place, it’s because there was such a powerful mobilization and movement for people to win this demand.”

For people who went to the polls for Edwards or Isom, Madsen said now was not the time to lose hope. There’s more to do, she said, and both contestants pushed the needle for representation.

“I think [Edwards and Isom] really paved the way for us as Utahns to think critically about who we can vote for,” she said. “And even in our minds we’re like, ‘Wait, a woman could do that. “”

About Hubert Lee

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