The Well-Being of Women in Utah
YWCA Utah’s vision is that all Utah women are thriving and leading the lives they choose, with their strength benefiting their families, communities, and the state as a whole. YWCA Utah and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) have partnered to publish this 2018 fact sheet on the well-being of women in Utah as part of IWPR’s Status of Women in the States project. We are proud to provide a reliable resource, with particular focus on the intersection of race and ethnicity with gender, and further encourage exploration, community collaboration, and policy change for the benefit of the entire state.
This fact sheet builds upon the briefing paper published in 2014 by IWPR and YWCA Utah, The Well-Being of Women in Utah: An Overview, and IWPR’s Status of Women in the States 2015. The 2018 fact sheet compares indicators of women’s well-being to the same indicators from the 2015 report, where available, and lays the foundation for what will become an annual snapshot of Utah women’s well-being in key dimensions of their lives.
As of 2016, women in Utah still work outside of the home at similar rates to women nationally and—while not yet at the same levels as U.S. women—they also continue to pursue business ownership, make progress in educational attainment, and overcome some aspects of poverty. Utah women, however, still face significant challenges and lag behind both women nationally and Utah men in earnings and leadership opportunities in the workplace and the political sphere, as well as educational attainment beyond the bachelor’s degree level. These gaps widen for women of color in Utah. A notably higher wage gap and lower bachelor’s degree attainment among Hispanic and Native American women are just two examples of significant racial disparities experienced by Utah women.
While Utah women are less likely to report experiencing violence than women nationally as of 2012, one in three women in the state experiences violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime. In comparison with the 2015 report and women nationally, the data also point to a troubling trend indicating that more Utah women are losing their lives to suicide.
Policy changes must be holistic in their approach, taking into account the unique backgrounds, circumstances, and obstacles facing women and families in Utah. Closing the gender wage gap and addressing the needs of workers striving for self-sufficiency are key to sustaining Utah’s economy and ability to attract new business. Policies that improve workplace flexibility and access to paid family leave can address workers’ diverse caregiving responsibilities and help employers hire and retain highly skilled workers in a tight labor market. Policies to address violence against women, or to support women experiencing mental health challenges, must also be considered within a broader context. Solutions to these complex problems require consideration of many overlapping issues such as access to health care, affordable housing, and economic opportunity in general.
While an annual data profile cannot possibly include every indicator that is important to Utah women, or address the complex and varied reasons for current trends, it does present a representative baseline from which to explore policy changes that can improve women’s lives. YWCA Utah shares this fact sheet to increase knowledge and awareness about the well-being of women in Utah and to promote statewide policy change based on shared values and a common desire to make Utah an even better place to live, work, raise a family, and build strong, prosperous communities.