What do Utah women working in politics, regardless of party or boss, have in common?
Long hours and an ongoing battle against discrimination, according to four women prominent in local and national politics.At the J.C. Penney Seminar Series, Women in Politics, held at the LDS Business College this week, the panel discussed managing political campaigns and offices. Sponsored by Network magazine and the college, the panelists were Jan Bennett, Utah executive director for Sen. Orrin Hatch; Kay Christensen, Utah chief of staff for Rep. Wayne Owens; Carol L. Clark, director of communication and research for the state Department of Community and Economic Development; and Kathy Loveless, director of communications for gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson.
While each woman has either a different political philosophy or a different type of job in the political arena, all agreed their jobs demand long hours and sometimes gritty work.
"If you don't like grunt work, don't get involved," Clark said. "It's a lifestyle, not a job."
Discrimination is another down side to political work, they agreed. All four have experienced sexual discrimination ranging from patronizing comments to men campaigning against giving them the jobs they hold successfully now.
"I haven't felt discrimination in managing a campaign or in a congressional office," said Christensen. "The discrimination comes from the outside, from the people you meet. . . . If you're a woman, there is a little extra proving to be done."
The rewards of political work vary from personal satisfaction to the thrill of power. The personal gratification comes from being able to contribute to areas she cares about, Clark said. The proximity of power and the power available to prominent workers is also a reward, although it is not obvious to anyone but the person enjoying it.
"When you are the most powerful, you are the least visible," said Clark.
Visible or otherwise, women have a future in politics in Utah. Loveless, who has worked in Washington, D.C., and in investment banking outside Utah, admitted to being surprised that women's issues that have long since been resolved in other states are still being debated in Utah.
"People are starting to look around and say `Things aren't OK here'," she said. "Do we want them that way or do we want change?"
They all agreed that women will have greater influence and bigger roles in in the future.