Susan has also been heavily involved for many years in researching the lifetime development of prominent women leaders. She has personally interviewed a host of women university presidents, U.S. governors, and international leaders and has had two books published on her results. Susan has also published nearly 60 articles in scholarly journals and presents often in local, national, and international settings. She recently presented in sessions at the United Nations in New York and Geneva on women, leadership, and education. Susan has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, and service. Her research has focused on women and leadership, change, and work-life integration.
Throughout its history, Utah has been known for placing strong emphasis on the formal education (K-12 and postsecondary) of men and women. In 1999, President Gordon B. Hinckley of the LDS Church stated:
“It is so important that you young men and you young women get all of the education that you can. The Lord has said very plainly that His people are to gain knowledge of countries and kingdoms and of things of the world through the process of education, even by study and by faith. Education is the key which will unlock the door of opportunity for you. It is worth sacrificing for. It is worth working at, and if you educate our mind and your hands, you will be able to make a great contribution to the society of which you are a part, and you will be able to reflect honorably on the Church of which you are a member. My dear young brothers and sisters, take advantage of every educational opportunity that you can possibly afford, and you fathers and mothers, encourage your sons and daughters to gain an education, which will bless their lives.”
Because of this strong belief in education, Utah actually used to be above the national average when it came to women enrolled and graduating from college; however, as more women around the country now are attending college (57% of students enrolled in postsecondary educational settings are now female), Utah has now fallen behind and is below the national average in many respects.
A report from the Utah Department of Workforce Services stated, “While prior to 1990, Utah women showed a higher rate of college graduation than U.S. women, by 2000, Utah women had lost their ‘bachelor’s degree or higher’ educational edge. Utah shows by far the largest gap in the nation between male and female college-graduation rates”. The Utah Foundation reported that, although the number of women in Utah with a bachelor’s degree or higher has slightly increased since 2000, percentages are not keeping pace with the nation (see Figure 1). This is particularly troubling since Utah men earn bachelor’s degrees or higher at a rate that exceeds the national average.
Figure 1: Percent of Adults (25 and older) with a Bachelor's Degree or Higher
In our recent Task Force Recommendation Report to the Governor (www.uvu.edu/wep), we noted that both men and women with postsecondary degrees and certificates, whether they participate in the paid workforce or not, are better prepared for roles as community members, homemakers, and caretakers. In an earlier report we wrote, titled “The Value of Higher Education for Women in Utah,” my co-authors and I discussed the many benefits that women can incur when they are college educated. These include a healthier lifestyle, increased life satisfaction, better lifelong learning skills, expanded knowledge, enhanced analytic skills, deeper creative thinking, better decision making, increased civic and community engagement, strengthened leadership skills, more developed social skills, heightened self-esteem, and stronger reasoning. In-depth research conducted within Utah discovered that women in Utah do not understand the broad value of getting college degrees. Many believe they will never work for pay outside the home and therefore do not need to be college educated. We noted in the earlier report that “A college education is more than a gateway to an affluent lifestyle. Earning a college degree has implications far beyond the workplace. The non-tangible benefits of receiving a college degree are, at minimum, equivalent to the monetary ones, and they extend from individuals to families and communities.”
The bottom-line is that, although there is strong emphasis in the LDS Church for women to attend college—many girls, young women, and women in Utah are choosing not to attend or not to continue attending for a host of reasons (lack of understanding the broad value is one of them). I will share some additional findings in my next post, but in the meantime feel free to watch our videos and read our briefs and research snapshots at www.uvu.edu/wep.
 Langston, L.P. (2009, September 18). The facts about women in Utah. Retrieved from the Utah Department of Workforce Services website at http://jobs.utah.gov/wi/pubs/womencareers/factsheet.html
 Utah Foundation Research Brief (October 29, 2009). Educational attainment: Utah falling behind national trends. Retrieved from http://www.utahfoundation.org/reports/?page_id=532
 Perlich, P. S. (2009). Long term demographic trends impacting higher education in Utah. Salt Lake City: Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of Utah, p. 5.
 Madsen, S. R., Hanewicz, C., & Thackeray, S. (January 2010). Research and Policy Brief: The Value of Higher Education for Women in Utah, p. 4.