Jackie Biskupski began serving in the Utah House of Representatives in 1999and resigned in June 2011 when she moved out of her district. She will join other women leaders to present Real Women Run (RealWomenRun.org), on Saturday, Jan. 14, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Miller campus of Salt Lake Community College (9750 S. 300 West, Sandy). The free training, sponsored by the YWCA Salt Lake City and the U’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, encourages women not only to run for office but to work on campaigns and serve on public boards and commissions.
Why are there so few women in Utah politics? Are men not making them feel welcome, or are women just not stepping up?
Women are not stepping up. Elected offices have long been pursued by both men and women, back to [Utah women’s rights advocate, suffragist and state senator] Martha Hughes Cannon. It’s the responsibility of women to realize the importance of their playing a role as an elected official with oversight over budget and policy. You can’t blame men for not inviting them. They need to take the initiative.
Do women lack the big egos necessary to run for office?
Most women aren’t running for office because of their ego. They find themselves engaged in an issue, and the issue takes them to the Capitol, and they realize it’s easier to effect change from the inside than it is from the outside. So they decide to run. It’s the same at the city level or the county level. Most women put more thought into running. They are more likely to look at the full impact on their families, their personal lives, their professional lives. With that comes this second-guessing of whether or not it’s OK to pursue this.
A number of women in Utah offices (such as former Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman and former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini) were involved in scandals and attracted negative publicity. Are women held to a higher standard?
Elected officials are held to a higher standard when it comes to ethical practices. However, if a female elected official missteps, it will make headline news and if a man missteps maybe, maybe not. One of the most valuable things elected officials can do for themselves is to have a political confidant who is very ethical. You can sometimes think a decision is OK, but if something is nagging at you, you should not ignore it. You just turn to that person and say, “Here’s what’s going on, what do you think?”
What did you like most about serving?
Every year you are in office, you will have a positive impact on something you care about. It’s like that great golf shot. You hit one out of 18 holes, and it makes you want to go back.
Will you run again?
I will be looking at Salt Lake City’s mayor’s office, at some point. The next year and a half at least are all about my [2-year-old] son. He gets me as much as he wants me.