UWLP Publishes Research Summaries on Leadership, STEM, and Male Allyship

By Julene Reese & Melinda Colton | April 18, 2024


Women leadership development

Researchers from the Utah State University Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) conducted a statewide study in the fall of 2023 to establish a baseline of public perceptions of awareness, understanding, and attitudes regarding the challenges Utah women and girls face. The survey focused on five areas: education, community engagement, safety and security, health and well-being, and the workplace. 

In October and November 2023, the UWLP collected data from 3,505 Utah men and women ages 18 and older. The 80-question survey was based on existing literature and survey instruments, guidance from experts, and baseline data needed by leaders of A Bolder Way Forward (BWF), an initiative that invites Utahns to break down barriers that keep women and girls from thriving.

Research summaries were recently released on Leadership DevelopmentSTEM Fields, and Male Allyship. The summaries, authored by Susan R. Madsen, founder and director of UWLP, are used to set goals and metrics for a BWF. Below are highlights of each research summary. 

Leadership Development – A goal for a BWF is to have more women serve in leadership roles in all domains and to help people in all sectors identify and implement best practices for advancing and supporting women.

  • Women’s agreement levels with the statement, “I aspire to be a leader,” were significantly higher than men’s.
  • Regarding the statement, “Others consider me a leader,” many people were either neutral or somewhat agreed, while those with higher education and children in the home had a stronger agreement.
  • Women had a significantly higher agreement with the statement, “It is important to me to pursue opportunities to develop leadership abilities.”
  • Many Utahns were not aware of opportunities and resources to help them develop leadership skills, but those with higher incomes and education – and those who lived in Cache, Summit/Wasatch, Iron, Utah, and Washington counties – agreed the most that they were aware of such resources and opportunities.
  • Only 8.8% of respondents believed Utahns are interested in understanding and confronting their biases, and an even lower percentage (6.8%) believe Utahns are aware of their own biases.

“It is critical that leadership development programs and related opportunities be carefully designed based on the latest research and theory,” said Madsen. “Rigorously designed opportunities will move the needle most effectively.”

STEM Fields – Nationally, 27% of STEM workers are women, compared to 21% in Utah. The research summary provides insight that can help improve STEM opportunities for girls and women.

  • 66.7% strongly agreed, and 21.8% agreed that women can be successful in STEM jobs in Utah, with women’s agreement significantly stronger than men’s.
  • In response to the statement, “We don’t need more women in STEM fields in Utah,” 63.9% strongly disagreed, and 20% disagreed.
  • In response to the statement, “STEM jobs are more difficult than jobs in other industries in Utah,” 72.9% disagreed at some level or neither agreed nor disagreed.
  • Most Utahns (68.7%) at least somewhat agreed that women can successfully advance their STEM careers in Utah.

Madsen said these findings are encouraging.

“Since Utah has a plethora of STEM-focus companies, everything from raising women’s STEM career aspiration to having women fill top leadership roles will strengthen the Utah economy,” she said. “More importantly, such increases will provide Utah women with more career opportunities to be involved in rewarding and high-paying employment that will help women support themselves and their families.”

Male Allyship – For girls and women to thrive, it is critical that more Utah men become “male allies,” and new data are critical to enhancing and understanding how men can more actively embrace their role as allies.

  • 62.9% disagreed or were neutral about the statement, “Men in Utah are supportive of women becoming leaders.”
  • Only 28.5% agreed at some level that men in Utah are engaged in efforts to have more women in leadership roles.
  • 61.1% selected “neither agree nor disagree” when presented with the statement, “Utah men are interested in supporting women.” Interestingly, Latter-day Saints had stronger agreement than all other religious affiliations, and the more religiously active respondents had higher agreement.
  • In response to the statement, “There are opportunities and resources available to help Utah men become better allies for women,” most people disagreed at some level, with those with higher education, non-parents, and women agreeing less. 

“The need to implement strategies that create and strengthen male allies is vital,” said Madsen. “A Bolder Way Forward aims to make Utah a place where more women and girls can thrive in any setting, and developing male allies is a critical component of that.”