Safety and equal pay top concerns for Salt Lake women, report says
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — A small group of women and men gathered on the west steps of the city and county building Tuesday to hear how life could change for women in Salt Lake.
"Today is another historic day for our city," Sabina Zunguze, chairwoman of the Committee on Women and Salt Lake City Human Rights Commission said as she released findings on "The Status of Women" to the mayor and Salt Lake City Council.
The report is a result of a 2012 survey of 600 women in Salt Lake City, and from focus groups of women in Salt Lake City held during the past two years. The report identifies four areas of focus for city leaders as it relates to improving the lives of women: education, gaining a greater political and social voice, improving health and safety, and seeking greater economic strength.
The survey results showed Salt Lake women's greatest concern was general safety. More than 21 percent of respondents placed this as their main concern. Factors include poor street lighting, lack of available late-night public transportation and feeling dismissed by Salt Lake Police officers.
The second greatest concern, expressed by 14.1 percent of those surveyed, related to pay discrepancies between men and women in Utah. Utah has one of the greatest income gaps between men and women in the nation, according to the National Women's Law Center.
Some women, 11.5 percent, also expressed a desire for greater leadership roles in the Legislature and local government, and in business. And nearly the same number, 11.2 percent, said they would like to see more support for women's education.
"When we held these focus groups, what was particularly compelling was the candor with which these women were able to tell the challenges they were having in integrating and also communicating with the city, and also where they were having good experiences," Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck, subcommittee member for the Political and Social group said.
The report does not just show what the city looks like now, but also provides recommendations for what the city can do in the future to include the voices of women in Salt Lake, according to Chavez-Houck.
This is just the beginning of change for the city, she said, and then said she would like for women's voices to continue to be heard through surveys, focus groups and Human Rights Commission subcommittees.
The City Council and mayor have not indicated what they will do with the recommendations, she said.
Mayor Ralph Becker commended the committee for its work. He said it will be "enormously helpful" in helping the city shape future policies because it enables the City Council, that has one female council member, to see things from a woman's perspective.
"As a man, I didn't appreciate until I was really an adult and had women bring to my attention that our lens on the world is different and we need to account for that not only on our own lives and the respect that we have for the other gender in our lives but also in our policies," Becker said.
Chaves-Houck said it is difficult to quantify the state of women in Utah, particularly with the self-selection that occurs with those who choose to participate in a focus group or complete a survey.
However, she said, within the conversations she participated in, she noticed trending topics, such as safety or income disparity. The focus groups also showed her that many women were not aware of the available resources within their community.
Women helping women
Shannon Parisi, vice president of membership for the Utah chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, learned the importance of networking and community resources when she started her own chiropractic business in North Carolina.
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