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Only 2 women on Top 20 power list

Utah still evolving in its comfort with women as leaders

Published: Thursday, May 17 2001 1:13 p.m. MDT

"You are kidding."
Gayle Ruzicka, head of the Utah Eagle Forum, thought there must be an error. Only two women on a list of the 20 most powerful or influential Utahns?
"That really surprises me," said Ruzicka, who was one of the 20 most powerful people and ranked at the top of a list of people powerful enough to stop a project in its tracks, according to research conducted by the Deseret News.
"There are going to be some women probably get mad about that. I can think of a lot of women whose names I would have assumed would have been there."
But take a look at political leaders in the state and there are few women, she conceded. Maybe it's not so surprising after all.
There are no female congressional representatives. There is a man in the governor's office, a man in the attorney general's office.
There are a lot of women involved in the arts, education, other communities. "But I guess people think about who they see in the headlines, and political leaders across the nation and throughout the state are usually men."
Still, Bonnie Hansen Stephens from the arts community or Lt. Gov. Olene Walker seem obvious omissions, she said.
Former Utah Attorney General Jan Graham, who was one of the 10 most powerful people in the state, isn't surprised.
She had good fortune in winning two statewide races in Utah, she says. But not only did Graham consider herself a member of the wrong political party to be elected in conservative Utah, she noted she is also the wrong gender.
"Utah is still evolving in its comfort with women leaders," she said. "Improving, but evolving."
Does she believe her gender affected her ability to exert influence with the Legislature?
"First of all, I don't think it ever hurt me with the public," said Graham, whose two four-year terms in office came to an end in January. "To be honest, I think it (being a woman) was a problem for me in dealing with some members of the Legislature. Some of the members of Republican leadership are still evolving in their comfort in working with women as peers, as co-leaders, in accepting that women can possess and exert their own independence or power with the people."
House Speaker Marty Stephens, R-Farr West, challenged Graham's claims. The Legislature works hard to recruit women candidates, he said. He added he didn't understand her complaints.
"We work with the people that the different districts send to us, whether they are women or men."
Ruzicka likes things her way and believes any woman can have a say by doing the work that contributes to her Eagle Forum.
"Most of the people who work with me are full-time, stay-at-home mommies," she said. "But we've discovered because the radical feminists went out and became part of the world of men and started speaking for women" her silent majority had to get active. "We were home taking care of our children, thinking all is well" when in fact women whose views they disagreed with were getting politically active and setting the agenda.
"The next thing we know we are trying to deal with the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) and other legislation they were trying to pass. We saw this absolute horrible turn of events that has changed our lifestyle. So I always say when we saw the dragon started coming through the front door, we had to go outside and fight them. But up until then, we really didn't feel the need.
"Lots of women would rather stay home and rear the children," Ruzicka said. "Somebody has to do it."


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