In terms of female representation in politics, Utah ranks well below the national average in several areas of government.
Students at the University of Utah, including a team of law students from the S.J. Quinney College of Law, were challenged to come up with ways to lessen this discrepancy and create more opportunities for women with the Real Women Run Case Competition.
The Real Women Run Case Competition, co-hosted by Goff Strategic Leadership Center & the Hinckley Institute of Politics in partnership with the YWCA Utah, is a competition where the goal of each team is to develop a strategic, creative plan to increase the number and diversity of women running for office in Utah.
1Ls Aisea Odencrantz, Meg Glasmann, Niki Crabtree, and Westin Garff felt passionately enough about this issue that they decided to enter the competition and put their skills to the test.
“This cause is important to our team because we live in Utah. While we can see the prevalence of women in leadership positions around the globe, within this state there simply is lackluster representation,” Glasmann said. “Each of us also tremendously care about honoring diversity, equity, and inclusion, and this seemed to be an excellent way to learn more about how we can make a positive impact on our local community in this area.”
The team members named themselves the Bruisers and got to work creating their strategic plan.
At the center of their plan was the Movers and Shakers program. They designed this program to create mentorships and sponsorships in political and elected roles, such as mayors, council members, attorney generals, and sheriff positions. They planned to pioneer the program at a high school and collegiate level, matching female students with mentors and sponsors in those roles, and then develop and diversify the program over the course of 10 years to eventually reach K-8 students too.
“Ensuring that women are always in the room where the decisions are made is vitally important to me as a female law student in a traditionally male-dominated field,” said Crabtree. “I want to make sure that the next generation feels empowered to run for office and hold decision-maker and leadership roles.”
The ultimate goal of the program would be educating girls and women about their own power and ability to hold these types of government roles and giving them the skills and network needed to achieve that.
“Women are so often told that to be successful in traditionally male-dominated spaces, from law to politics to financial services to STEM and more, that they must adopt traditionally male characteristics,” said Odencrantz. “However, I think that just encouraging women to be themselves, to embrace their sarcasm, emotion, caring, drive, and all the aspects that make them unique ultimately builds a stronger political system in Utah.
The students not only had to flesh out all the details of their potential program, but they also had to present the plan to a panel of judges and answer any questions.
“This competition was an invaluable experience for all of us,” Glasmann said. “We were able to practice our public speaking skills, learn how to problem-solve effectively when we faced various technology issues, and also work as a team to produce a stellar final product. I think it is fair to say that our first semester of law school helped us to recognize each of our strengths. Law school gave us the confidence to take on the competition and create a fully-fleshed mentorship and sponsorship program.”
The Bruisers’ excellent teamwork and detailed planning earned them second place in the competition. They received a cash prize and the knowledge that their work could be utilized by the Real Women Run initiative to empower women.
The competition proved to be not only a valuable learning experience for these law students, but a bonding one as well.
“I’ve personally been elevated by the influence of my team members during law school and throughout this experience,” Garff said. “The competition emphasized how vital an amazing study group can be for law students. I’m sure we will be friends for life and I can’t wait to see what else we accomplish.”