Leading the Way: Best Practices of Utah’s Top 100 Companies that Champion Women

By Julene Reese | July 6, 2023


Women in business

Many state leaders boast that Utah is at the forefront of innovative and awe-inspiring economic opportunity initiatives, with accolades that include the best-managed state in America, the best economic outlook, and the best state to start a business. However, for the past eight years, Utah has been ranked as WalletHub’s worst state for women’s equality, ranking 48 out of 50 in “workplace environment.” This includes disparity in income levels and share of executive positions. This aligns with research confirming that many Utah women are not thriving in their workplace environments.  

“Research on the importance of implementing flexible and family-friendly policies and practices in workplaces has been well documented,” said Susan Madsen, Utah State University Utah Women & Leadership Project founding director and a report author. “There is a direct link between implementing these types of strategies and the retention and advancement of women.” 

In 2022, this challenge was addressed by the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, the Utah Women & Leadership Project, and the Cox–Henderson Administration, who partnered to launch a one-year initiative: “100 Companies Championing Women.” This was also part of the Inspire InUtah campaign to support women in the workplace at all levels, including as entrepreneurs. 

The UWLP summarized highlights of the best practices of these organizations, which were gathered from the one-year public campaign. The 100 companies selected represent a variety of sectors, including marketing, healthcare, insurance, nonprofit, technology, finance, retail, manufacturing, and arts.

Regarding the location of the companies, 55% were based in Salt Lake County; 25% were based in Utah County, 9% in Davis County, and 11% in other counties.

Overall, the most commonly noted family-friendly policies and women-focused initiatives included: flexible work hours and location, 90%; remote work, 87%; pay equity efforts, 84%; efforts to diversify managers and leaders at mid- to senior levels, 80%; and paid family leave, 76%.  

The least-selected policies and initiatives included: tuition reimbursement, 10%; return-to-work programs, 19%; childcare support, 21%; job sharing, 21%; and part-time work with benefits, 26%. 

In the area of “family-specific policies and benefits,” selections included: paid family leave, 76%; back-to-work maternity support, 68%; unpaid family leave, 66%; adoption and fertility benefits, 34%; and childcare support, 21%.

“Childcare remains a top concern for women who are employed in Utah,” said Karen Hill, research associate, Utah Women & Leadership Project. “All organizations that offered childcare support believed it was critical today to recruit, hire, retain, and support employees.” 

The report showed that flexible work was among the top three benefits selected, with 90 companies surveyed offering flexible work hours. In addition, 90% of the companies provided flexible location work options for at least some employees. Just over half the organizations provided professional development aimed specifically at women. Other efforts to support women in the workplace included implementing practices and policies for pay equity (84%), and providing tuition reimbursement (10%). 

“Our report shows that family-friendly policies and developmental programs to advance women are linked to improved recruiting, hiring, retaining, and advancing women at all levels,” said Hill. “We recommend that companies review the benefits, policies, and practices of the organizations recognized in the report to see what Utah businesses of all sizes are doing to support employees and their families. State legislators should consider research-based public policies to help Utah have more family-friendly workplaces.”

Madsen said it is important for businesses in Utah to increase the representation of women in companies, which will ensure that more women and their families in the state can thrive.

“For the state to continue to see economic success well into the future, Utah’s workplaces must create cultures that better support all Utahns, including women.” 

Another report author is Emily S. Darowski, associate director, Utah Women & Leadership Project. 

Resources for companies include the UWLP Organizational Strategies Toolkits, A Bolder Way Forward, and the ElevateHER Challenge. To see the full report that includes a listing of the top 100 companies that champion women, click here. For further information on UWLP programs and projects, visit utwomen.org