Why Does Utah Struggle with Getting More Women in Leadership Roles? Women’s Ideas about Women, Leadership, and Confidence

In 2014, the Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) team collected data from various sources to understand some of the issues in Utah regarding women, confidence, and leadership. The full set of results was published in a February 2015 research and policy brief titled, “Women, Confidence, and Leadership: What Do Utah Women Leaders Think?” In this blog we highlight the results from the first two research questions analyzed: “Why does Utah struggle with getting more women in leadership roles?” and “What do you think about Utah women, leadership, and confidence?” Data on these questions were gathered from the UWLP LinkedIn group. The following is a summary of the results that Dr. Susan R. Madsen wrote and published on these questions:

Utah’s Struggle with Women in Leadership

The first question posted on the UWLP LinkedIn group during the summer of 2014 was “Why does Utah struggle with getting more women into leadership roles?” There were approximately 60 responses to the post, and we categorized comments into five primary themes with details listed for each (see Table 1)

Table 1: Utah’s Struggles with Women in Leadership

Themes Details
Personal Challenges mindset that women should not be leaders; perception that men are better leaders; lack of confidence; lack of understanding or belief in their own worth and power; sensitivity to feedback; comfort in support roles
Lack of Education not finishing college; encouragement to get married before finishing college; lack of encouragement to finish college after marriage; lack of early discussions about options; lack of investment and support for women to get degrees
Work-life lack of women working full-time; women seeking more flexible work; not on management/leadership tracks because of priorities; childcare challenges; role incongruity beliefs; societal norms; LDS culture of women being supporters and not leaders
Lack of Support lack of mentors, role models, sponsors, and other support; lack of networking and other opportunities; lack of investment in women’s careers; lack of support from companies for women with families; LDS culture not encouraging women to be leaders
Workplace Challenges discrimination and prejudice; lack of flexibility in Utah companies; career breaks;
organizational cultures; view that only paid work counts on résumés; glass ceiling; reduced networking because men separate themselves in the workplace

Quantitative Findings

Ten quantitative questions were also asked about various assumptions participants had regarding confidence and leadership. The questions, statistical means (M), and standard deviations (S.D.) are found in Table 2. The scale used was 1 (strongly disagree) through 7 (strongly agree). It is important to note that about 71% of the survey respondents were 41 years of age or older, 65% were married, and 85% held bachelor’s degrees or higher. The majority of the individuals who took the survey were leaders themselves.

Table 2: Confidence and Leadership Perceptions

Questions M S.D.
1. A lack of confidence is a problem for Utah girls and women. 5.8 1.08
2. Women need to be more confident. 6.3 .87
3. It is fine that men are more confident than women. 2.0 1.66
4. Men are supposed to be more confident than women. 1.5 1.08
5. Women don’t need a lot of confidence to do what they should be doing. 1.3 1.23
6. Women should be leaders. 6.7 1.02
7. Men should be leaders more than women. 1.6 1.47
8. Men are born with more leadership qualities than women. 1.8 1.57
9. More needs to be done to help girls and women with becoming more
confident.
6.6 .85
10. More needs to be done to help girls and women become leaders. 6.7 .85

The higher standard deviations mean that there was a broader range of responses. If the sample had included a broader representation of the general population of women in Utah, there most likely would have been different results. But the overall takeaway from this first round of data collection is that the respondents had strong perceptions that Utah women need to be more confident and that more should be done to help girls and women to become more confident and to become leaders.


The text of this blog was excerpted from a February 2015 research and policy brief authored by Dr. Susan R. Madsen titled, “Women, Confidence, and Leadership: What Do Utah Women Leaders Think?” (Please see the entire brief for more information on research context and methodology.)

One thought on “Why Does Utah Struggle with Getting More Women in Leadership Roles? Women’s Ideas about Women, Leadership, and Confidence

  1. I don’t know where the women commenting on this survey got the idea that the LDS culture does not encourage women to be leaders. On the contrary, LDS women I Know take very seriously the role of matriarchs and leaders to benefit our families and our communities. LDS women, not only in Utah but around the world belong to the largest Women’s organization that exists today. We teach out daughters that whatever a boy can do, a girl can do it even better. We are combating poverty, loneliness, ignorance and hopelessness wherever we are. I am in the Philippines.

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