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STEM needs Utah’s women. An acronym for science, technology, engineering and math, STEM degree programs have high earning potential and lack women candidates. The Utah Women and Education Initiative (UWEI) plans on fixing that void.
A study to examine why women are not completing college was conducted in 2009 by Susan Madsen, the Orin R. Woodbury Professor of Leadership and Ethics in the Woodbury School of Business at Utah Valley University. Her work gained the attention of Gov. Gary R. Herbert, and as a result the Utah Women’s College Task Force (UWCTF) was created in 2011 to make recommendations leading to an increase in women attending college and completing post-secondary degrees in Utah.
UWEI is an outgrowth initiative of UWCTF. UWEI Director Mary Ann Holladay commented that Utah has a 6 percent gap in how long it takes women to achieve a bachelor’s degree compared to Utah men. This gap is the largest in the nation according to Holladay.
“Earning a college degree has implications far beyond the workplace. The non-tangible benefits of receiving a college degree are equivalent to the monetary ones, and they extend from individuals to families and communities,” said Madsen.
UWEI recently launched its website, www.utahwomenandeducation.org, which is a hub for individuals looking for resources and information on post-secondary education.
“The website is really for anyone who is interested in helping young women complete their education. Fathers, counselors, friends, religious leaders, it is open to a variety of audiences,” said Holladay. “It seems that everyone has some kind of story to tell about a woman in their life that inspired them or was a positive role model or did not complete their education and struggled because of it.”
Among the many benefits of higher-educated women, Holladay said, are better health, better well being, better over-all self development and cognitive skills, better parenting and increased civic and community engagement.
“Having educated people in our state benefits everyone,” said Holladay. “It is a women’s initiative, but we are looking to benefit men and women in the work that we are doing.”