Training session aims to boost female representation in Utah politics

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A training session was held Saturday to encourage more Utah women to run for office. Data shows women are significantly under-represented in the state legislature, and the group Real Women Run is working to change that.

More women in Utah vote than men, and data indicate that a higher percentage make it out to the polls The group Real Women Run is working to encourage those women to take their political participation one step further.

"It's an opportunity for growth and the voice of women is really needed,” Event Organizer Sheryl Allen said.

Allen has held many titles: Teacher, President of Davis County’s Board of Education and State Representative. Today, she works to train the next generation of Utah women seeking political office.

"I wanted to encourage them so that it becomes more than a thought and becomes action,” Allen said.

Several representatives and city council women gathered at the Hinckley Institute to speak about their experience and answer questions, and the room was filled with women of all ages who had a wide variety of education, occupations and aspirations.

“There's a real drive there, and there's a real untapped potential, and a lot of women who, I think if they push themselves a little bit more with a little more support and training, they can really flourish in the public arena,” said Emily Strong, who is a graduate student.

In the four years of Real Women Run’s existence, Bountiful City Council Member Kendalyn Harris has gone from a spectator to a panelist.

"The information I gained when I came, I remember was really valuable and so to me to come back as someone who has now run a campaign and won; I have the experience and some insight to help those people,” Harris said. “It's really fun because it makes me remember how I felt, and it's empowering because anyone can do it.”

Just 16 women—10 representatives and six senators--make up the female portion of the Utah Legislature this year, and that’s of course down from 2014 when Utah had 17. But the training event isn’t just to get women to run for office it’s about getting women to participate in politics and public policy.

“There's definitely been, for me, more focus on public service, so since I’ve come into this program and really been exposed to this sort of training I'd like to go after something like the foreign service or something like that that sort of involves the level of training and knowledge and poise that these sort of positions require,” Strong said.

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