by Chelsea Nelson
Interactive Communications Director

On Tuesday, United Way of Salt Lake hosted its first ever Women and Education Summit: Investing in Our Future. The Summit was a great success and attendees left armed with information and statistics to help move the needle on the number of girls and women who finish post-secondary education.

The statistics around the issue of women completing secondary-education is startling. Enrollment figures have steadily declined since 1990 and this has resulted in Utah ranking 26th in the nation for higher education completion by women. The gap between males and females attaining four-year degrees in Utah has grown to six percent. No other state has a gap of this size. Due to these realities, women in Utah currently make only 69 cents for every dollar men earn – the highest disparity rate in the nation.

With keynote speakers Mary C. Daly, Susan R. Madsen, and Cecelia H. Foxley–attendees of the Women and Education Summit learned about the potential economic, social, and cultural reasons that Utah’s statistics might be so low. With breakout sessions including “A Male Perspective,” Building Self-Worth,” Preparation and Readiness,” and “A Student Perspective,” speakers and panels explored the roles that men and women play in the successful completion of education for women in Utah. Strategies for the community, family, workplace, and classroom were also discussed.

Diane Horrocks of Hexcel Corporation had this to say about the Women and Education Summit:

This was my first experience of going to a conference where the vast majority of attendees were women, as I work in the Manufacturing and Technology sector.  It was inspiring to be surrounded by so many smart professionals who had come together to learn what we can do to help young ladies in Utah graduate from college.  The Key note speakers presented their subjects with such passion that you couldn’t help but be motivated to try to make a difference.  Their data showed how we as individuals can have a huge positive impact on young lives even if our interaction with them is limited.  It immediately made me want to get involved with mentoring, so I’m  signing up to do it!

I also had the opportunity to join in the breakout session titled “Strategies for the Workplace”.  Kristen Cox works for the Governor’s office and had some great insights on the importance of succession planning, and more importantly giving individuals the time and opportunities to get the skills needed to be ready for that “next promotion.” Dianna James from Zions Bank spoke very highly of mentoring–not just of school age children, but how it can be equally rewarding in the work place.  The last speaker, Mark Bouchard from CBRE, explained the importance of constantly nurturing our minds and looking at education as an “investment” as opposed to a “cost.”  All these speakers were thought provoking and made for an excellent overall experience.

A thank you to everyone who participated with us in making this Women and Education Summit such a success. Thank you to the UWSL staff and the WPN Women and Education Summit Planning Committee who worked so hard to organize the Summit and create an environment for learning and inspiration.

Also, a HUGE thank you to the sponsors who made the Women and Education Summit possible: Wells Fargo, The Mark and Kathie Miller Foundation, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Questar, ATK, Deloitte & Touche, LLP, Intermountain Healthcare, KSL, Paula Green Johnson, David S. Thomas, M.D., Zions Bank, Ernst & Young, Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C., Utah System of Higher Education, Carlos Falchi, O.C. Tanner, Salt Lake Magazine, and Webb Audio Visual Communication.