Women’s workshop criticizes cultural barriers and gender roles

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Women are promoted on performance and men are promoted on potential, said Kyle Reyes, at the Utah Women and Leadership Project workshop that focused on strengthening women in leadership Sept. 14, where over 600 people filled the Ragan Theatre.

The event featured three separate workshops by Sui Lang L. Panoke, founder and director of Women Politics Media, Kyle Reyes, special assistant to the president for inclusion and Matt Swenson, child and adolescent psychiatrist. It concentrated on helping women find a voice through social media, building resilience and making the glass ceiling visible.

“In most cultures, masculinity and leadership are closely linked; the ideal leader, like the ideal man, is decisive, assertive and independent,” Reyes said. “In contrast, women are expected to be nice, care-taking and unselfish,” Reyes said.

Reyes’ topic expanded on the unconscious gender bias that we have created in our culture and how to “call it out.” “I’m not attacking men, I’m simply asking if you’ve considered your male privilege,” Reyes said.

People need to stop focusing on telling women to dress for success. Instead, they should focus on where they are going to make their impact in the world, said Reyes. “It’s not about what the most powerful lipstick color is.”

The mission of UWLP is to strengthen the impact of Utah girls and women by informing, engaging, and developing their voices, confidence, influence and leadership. “Education helps women know their worth,” board of trustee chair member and event opener Elaine Dalton said.

Susan Madsen founded the organization in 2013 after the Center for American Progress identified Utah last in all 50 states in terms of women being in positions of leadership. Madsen hopes to get more women from UVU to attend these events and get involved.

“It’s empowering to see so many people here and see people who are passionate about women’s issues,” community health student Alicia Mayer said.