Introducing – The Utah Women & Education Initiative

 When I went to college, there were basically two career options for women: teaching and nursing. While these are still excellent career choices, so many things have changed in the past 20 years, and women’s educational choices have expanded in exciting ways. Disappointingly, the number of women completing college at the bachelor’s level or higher in Utah continues to lag behind the rest of the country. There is a 6% gap between the rate at which women complete a bachelor’s degree versus their male counterparts. This is the largest gap of any state in the nation.  The Utah percentage of bachelor degrees awarded to women (47%) is the lowest of all 50 states. Rather than dwelling on the reasons why this is the case, it is more productive to focus on why changing our mindsets around women and education is crucial to Utah’s future.

Completing an education is not just about having a better job; it’s about having a higher quality life. Better education is linked to better physical and mental health, better parenting, civic leadership and meaningful contributions to the lives of others. The Utah Women’s Initiative is an outcome of the Utah Women’s College Task Force, a group that was charged by the Governor to develop a plan to impact women’s rates of degree completion in a relatively short time frame. Our vision is to capitalize on the good things that are already happening in our state, as well as coordinate a new collective effort to make a difference. Having better educated women in our state means having the talent and resources to prosper, even during tough economic times, and to help lead the nation in making things better for every American.

In the coming weeks and months, you’ll hear from talented people who want to help lead a change in our educational success rates. You’ll see exciting things happening on our website, including Podcast stories of those who have overcome adversity in pursuing their dreams. You’ll have access to a variety of resources to better position women to succeed in the education system. Most importantly, you’ll get a sense of what you personally can do to make a difference – perhaps in your own life – and certainly in the lives of others. Together we can help achieve the goal of having 66% of Utahns aged 20-64 attain postsecondary degrees or certificates. This is important work, and I am honored to serve in this effort.

Mary Ann Holladay, Director of Utah Women and Education Initiative