Utah may have a problem with gender bias, but the state is not much different from others across the nation.

According to members of the Utah Task Force on Gender and Justice who spoke to participants of Brigham Young University's International Conference on Gender and the Family, Utah's gender bias could slowly change for the better."Right now we are no worse, but no better, than other states," said Aileen Clyde, member of the task force and chairwoman of Thursday's panel discussion.

"The issues and the findings are the same everywhere," she said. Fourteen other states have completed similar studies.

The study focuses specifically on how gender affects and is affected by the state's justice system, but Clyde said the task force decided to make recommendations to others who are involved, like the Utah Legislature and local ecclesiastical leaders.

Utah Supreme Court Justice Michael Zimmerman said Utah's justice system itself requested the study.

Many may ask why the justice system would want the results of such a study, he said. "A system which has very few laws in which gender is a consideration needs to test itself."

Though the task force discovered that there is a definite gender bias, Zimmerman said, "most of the gender and attitude bias was unintentional. People were basing decisions on good principles."

He said an example is that Utah is very religiously oriented and people in high legal positions may also hold high ecclesiastical positions.

The problem is not necessarily in the religion, Zimmerman said. "The problem comes when the people don't differentiate between the roles."

Sharon P. McCully, a juvenile court judge in Utah's 3rd District, said everyone needs to be willing to admit that there is a gender problem.

"Then people can be educated," she said. If a generation of children could be raised who each believed in themselves and not in the old ideas of who is supposed to have the power, things could change.

Another member of the task force, Francine Bennion, said she would add a few personal recommendations to those of the task force.

People need to understand that both males and females should participate in family processes of child care and earning a living, she said. "It must not be an either/or matter."

Children must be brought up to be able to do both, Bennion said.

Conference chairwoman Barbara Vance said the conference is probably the first of its kind.

"The past two decades have seen extensive research about gender as well as much research related to the family," she said. "This conference is blending what is known about the family with what is known about gender."