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Weber State students India Nielsen and Viviana Felix serving as Utah state legislative interns. (Source: Carol McNamara)

Why don’t more women run for public office in Utah, and how can we persuade them to step up to the plate and take a chance?

On Feb. 20, 2015, the Women’s Center, together with a consortium of campus groups, will host Elect Her, Weber State Women Win, a program being duplicated at universities across the stateThe program offers a full day of instruction to persuade and train young women to run for leadership positions on campus and for future political offices.

Every election cycle, the media count up the number of women in the Utah Legislature (this year it is 15.4 percent) and in city and county governments.  And on each occasion, we hear the lament across the state that not enough women even run for public office.

Real Women Run, a Utah organization dedicated to encouraging and training women to run for elected office, offer statistics, which reveal that when women run, they win at the same rate as men. But, they observe, in Utah in particular, women are reluctant to seek election because they worry more than men about all that it takes to run successfully: fundraising, campaigning, debating opponents and persuading voters.

The immediate purpose of the Elect Her program is to persuade women on the Weber State University campus to run for office in student body government.  Research demonstrates that when young women participate in student government in high school and at university, they have the skills and confidence that make it more likely for them to run for office when they leave campus.

The training teaches potential campus candidates the essential components of campaign organization: the nuts and bolts of running a campaign, strategy, message and how to run an impactful campaign.  The hope is that women will use this information to run for office on campus and then throw themselves into the rough and tumble of the political world after graduation.

A campaign strategist from Running Startand AAUW will facilitate the day’s events. Speakers will include: the keynote speaker, Aimee Winder Newton, the first Republican to serve on the Salt Lake County Council, Amanda Dickson, KSL Radio Host, Abby Coura, campaign adviser, owner of Data Elect, Inc., local political and community leaders and women with experience in Weber State student government.

On the Weber State University campus, representation is more equally divided between women and men in the student Senate and among executive vice presidents, although there has been only one female student body president in the past five years.  Despite the large numbers of women in Weber campus government,very few of these women go on to represent the people of Utah in elected office when they leave Weber.

One notable exception is, of course, Weber alumna, Olene Walker, who served eight years in the Utah House of Representatives, 11 as Lieutenant Governor, and three years as Governor of Utah, the first woman to hold the last two offices.  Governor Walker has dedicated a good part of her efforts, after leaving office, to encouraging young women in Utah to complete their university degrees and to use their education and talent to benefit the state of Utah, especially in positions of leadership across the state.

Ann Millner, former Weber State president, also serves as a role model for Weber Women. Upon retiring from the Weber State presidency, Millner launched a successful campaign to represent central Utah in the state Senate. Senator Millner ran for office in order to create “solutions” to the challenges that will benefit “Utah’s future.”

Registration for Elect Her closes on Feb. 16, 2015. We encourage Weber State women to sign up to learn how to run for election on campus to impact the future of Weber State and the state of Utah http://www.weber.edu/womenscenter/elect-her.html. All events and lunch are free and will take place Feb. 20, 2014, Hurst Center for Lifelong Learning, Dumke Hall, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.




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