Gov. Norm Bangerter blames a complicated selection process for the small number of females his administration has appointed to top-level state jobs and judgeships.
Responding to critical questions from a group of women attorneys and certified public accountants Tuesday, Bangerter said women play an important part in his administration."I don't think we've diminished that (the role of women in government)," he said after delivering a short speech. "I think we have enhanced it since the last administration."
The problem is that selection committees often leave him to choose among applicants who all are male.
While admitting only two of the 36 judges he has appointed are female, Bangerter said he wished he could urge certain attorneys to apply for judgeships.
But some women in the audience said they perceive the administration has little room for women and people from diverse races and religions. In a series of critical questions, they asked whether Bangerter deliberately avoided choosing women.
Bangerter, fighting for his political life this year against favored Democratic challenger Ted Wilson, said he believes women should be included in government and he encouraged them to apply for upcoming appointments.
He listed several female administrators he appointed as examples of his regard for women, including some close aides.
"Appointments are very tough to make," he said. "You end up appointing a lot of people you don't know."
Bangerter was defended by Colleen Colton, one of his administrative assistants, who said women play a far greater role in the administration than is apparent.
"A year ago I was sitting in the same position you are," she told the women. "I didn't see a lot happening on the surface. But when I joined the staff my opinion changed."
Colton urged more women to apply for positions.
"The people that are charged with appointments can only nominate from those people in front of them," she said. "Somehow, those (female) names have to first get in the system."
Bangerter said he has appointed several women to sit on commissions that nominate finalists for appointments. But he stopped short of committing to set a quota for the number of women in high-level jobs.
"I'm not interested in quotas, I'm interested in performance," he said.