Political leaders in Utah don't know what to do with women who run for public office, according to a state legislator who said she has been asked to take minutes and make coffee at legislative meetings just because she is a woman.
Beverly J. White spoke as part of a panel on "Political Game Playing" during a Women and Politics seminar series Wednesday night at LDS Business College. She spoke of the political games she said she has had to play during the 18 years she has served as a state representative from Tooele."But if I had it to do all over again . . . with the tears, the sweat and the beatings I have taken as a woman legislator, I'd do it all again," she said after relating several experiences in which male legislators have told her women don't belong in politics.
White said she first became aware of the prejudice when she presented her first bill before the Legislature. It was an insignificant housekeeping bill asking legislators to approve a small word change. The bill passed 28-1, and afterward she approached the one man who had cast the negative vote.
"I asked him why he voted against it, was there something wrong with it. He said, `Yes, there was. It had your name on it, and I won't vote for a bill sponsored by a woman.' "
Being a state representative, White said, is better than a college education for a woman. Politics "is the greatest challenge, other than motherhood," she said.
Attorney Doug Foxley told the audience he believes men have learned a lot from women who are involved in politics.
"You have made us rethink many of the assumptions we were operating on," he said. "I think in politics there is a role for bright, capable people willing to pay the price, regardless of gender."
But White said she doubts times have changed too much since there are currently only eight women out of 104 members of the Legislature.
"It's the process of how you get into the system that we're held out of," she said.
Pat Shea, former Democratic Party chairman, said in order for more women to become involved in politics, different role attitudes need to be taught to children in school.
He said anyone who wants to go into politics should run for office with a purpose and not just to be a politician.
"You'd better know what you want to achieve and keep your eye on that goal so you won't get distracted," he said.