A former member of the General Relief Society Presidency of the LDS Church is concerned that young women today are still not getting a clear picture of their vulnerability in modern society.
Aileen Clyde, currently serving as a member of the State Board of Regents, spoke to the Women in Leadership group in Provo Thursday and said she's finding still a tragic lack of understanding in the girls she teaches in her LDS ward.She said it's crucial they be prepared for other than a perfect life.
"Sixty-five percent of all women under 65 will be their own source of support at some point in their lifetime," Clyde said. "It's way more than we think."
In Utah County, with the highest LDS population in the world, there is also the highest number of working women.
Clyde said the messages sent to young women in the LDS culture are making them vulnerable because they're preparing to be homemakers only and not preparing to be self-sufficient.
"I ask them, `What do you want to be?' and they say, `Married.' I say, `Talk to me about a person, about who you want to be.' "
In addition, the state of Utah does little to make it easy for a woman to sustain herself and her family when the need arises, she said.
"If we are going to talk about strengthening families, let's do more than talk," she suggested.
Clyde said she doesn't know why she's always noticed the differences in the ways gender is regarded but it's been a cause with her throughout her life.
From the time she decided she wanted to play basketball in high school and was told, "Girls don't play basketball," Clyde said she's taken silent and sometimes not-so-silent notes.
While women in the United States are far better off than women internationally, she said there is still room for vast improvement.
The situation has given rise to the term "feminization of poverty," she said. "Most people, everywhere, in poverty, are women with little children.
"My concern is with the dampening effect on women in management, in leadership, in opinion. There still seems to be a problem and I don't know why."
Clyde said the boards she's seen operate with a healthy membership of women vs. men have more discussion, more diversity and in the end, more balanced results.
"We don't all have to see things in the same way," she said.
She attacked the efforts at welfare reform that assume women are trying to duck their responsibility to family and children.
"I'm concerned about the emphasis on women as villains. I assure you that the consensus is that women are trying to duck their responsibilities when women are not trying to abandon home. They're just very concerned about the welfare of their children."