This past week a mural was unveiled by Zions Bank on Women’s Equality Day. As has been pointed out by others, there were some glaring omissions in this mural. Though currently serving Democratic female legislators are honored, there are no currently serving Republican female legislators honored in this mural.
Though several “firsts” for women in leadership are celebrated, neither the first female Speaker of the Utah House, Becky Lockhart (a Republican), nor Mia Love, the first Black Republican woman elected to Congress, are celebrated in this mural. And there are many more examples of Republican women who have had a significant impact in Utah who are omitted from the mural. I could not be silent about the unintended consequences of these omissions.
A few months ago, I was interviewed by a young college student for a paper she was writing for one of her classes. Based on the questions she was supposed to ask, I could tell that among other topics, the class was focusing on gender inequity. I told her that my responses would likely differ from what others might offer and then proceeded to answer the questions. At the end of the interview she told me that she found my responses refreshing. She also indicated that she aligned with my way of thinking but didn’t often hear others talk this way. I have been reflecting on that conversation ever since.
I admire the many women in our state who have summoned the courage to roll up their sleeves and add their voices to important conversations. We stand on the shoulders of those who courageously came before us. Our state’s future leaders deserve to see all models of female leadership honored. Diversity of thought among women should be celebrated and encouraged.
Whether the omissions in the mural were intentional or not, the unintended consequences of these omissions are many. I find myself quite concerned that the young women of today don’t have diverse role models to consider as examples of women in leadership. There is a voice and perspective that dominates the public eye and if you are a young woman whose opinions differ from what seems to be portrayed as the voice of women, you may not feel that there is a place for you in leadership. I want to counter that.
As an educator I have a thorough understanding of the need for students to see themselves in their teachers. There is a need to increase the diversity of teachers in our classrooms. As a woman who seeks to have an impact in my community, I believe there should also be a united effort to ensure that young women can see themselves in the women around them.
Young women today are incredibly engaged. They have a desire to make a difference in the lives of others. They deserve to see women who share their perspective leading out on important issues. When energy is exerted in a display that does not equally honor women who share diverse perspectives, we have missed an opportunity to empower future female leaders.
Women have a keen ability to nurture and influence and this ability exists on both sides of the aisle. If we are chasing women’s equality, it is time to make sure that women’s voices are represented equally.
Marci Houseman is a Sandy City councilwoman and an educator with 20 years of experience working to transform teaching and learning.