This year that number dropped even lower: 22 percent, according to Dubois.
This could have been because of the involvement of the LDS Church, which went out of its way to encourage people to participate in their neighborhood caucus meetings in March this year. While this resulted in more moderate crop of delegates (the group cheered former Senator Bob Bennett when he spoke), it also may have created even more of a political sausage-fest than usual.
“Women do show up at caucus night, but they don’t run to be delegates,” said Heather Hawkins Groom, president of the Utah Federation of Republican Women (UFRW), who has directed all of her group’s county leaders to hold caucus training. “I love the caucus system, but we need a healthy caucus system which includes women as delegates.”
People at their neighborhood caucus meetings this year tended to elect male priesthood leaders from their wards, she said, noting that 96 percent of delegates were LDS.
“It’s not just for the white LDS male to be elected,” Groom continued. “There needs to be a more broad representation of what makes up Utah.”
One problem is women tend to have the “vice-chair syndrome,” Groom said, but noted she’s guilty of it herself: (We noticed her day job is deputy campaign manager for Gov. Herbert.) “The majority of women feel most comfortable in a supportive role, where they can be a great ‘Number 2!’” she said.
But this could be changing.
“This year, we have more women serving in campaign leadership positions or running for state office, than ever before. I am confident the trend will continue,” Groom continued.
Not only does Utah have a high-profile female candidate this year, Mia Love running for Congress, but a burgeoning sorority of groups like UFRW, the Republican Women of Utah Valley, and the “Troublemakers” who are motivating women at the grass-roots level.
“Most women don't know it, but we are naturally suited for politics,” said Deidre Henderson, Jason Chaffetz’s campaign manager since 2008 and a candidate for State Senate. “We feel most comfortable running things. We're clever organizers and confident promoters – indispensable traits for managing effective political groups, campaigns, and candidates. And often, the experiences we gain backstage can prepare us for when opportunities arise to move from behind the scenes to behind the microphone. But that's the hard part.”
Henderson, who only stepped in front of the microphone herself this year, says that frightens many women.
“This prohibitive fear is one factor that keeps many women in the sanctuary of their comfort zones, and we need more women to step out of them,” she continued. “I hope we can continue to get more women involved in politics. We need them. There's been a surge over the past few years and it's been exciting to see new women enter the political arena in every capacity.”