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Davis Journal

A Bolder Way Forward is the start of a revolution

Aug 03, 2023 03:28PM ● By Peri Kinder

While traveling to and from Costa Rica, Dr. Susan Madsen, founding director of the Utah Women and Leadership Project, read “How Change Happens: Why Some Social Movements Succeed While Others Don’t.” The book by Leslie Crutchfield inspired Madsen to create an innovative system to help women and girls in Utah.

In June, UWLP launched A Bolder Way Forward, not just a new initiative, but a movement that Madsen hopes will implement positive change, create opportunities and offer support for women and girls in a revolutionary way.

“National and statewide studies continue to show that women and girls in Utah are not thriving in critical areas,” Madsen said. “Year after year, Utah continues to have high levels of domestic violence, sexual assault, child sexual abuse and gender based discrimination, while also ranking us the worst state for women’s equality and having low levels of women’s leadership representation in nearly all domains including in business and politics.”

BWF is designed to be a vehicle of change for Utah women and is represented by a wheel with 18 spokes, a rim and a hub. The center of the wheel is the goal to help more women and girls thrive. The rim includes five impact teams to address sexism, identity (such as gender, race and neurodiversity), culture (including art, music and women’s history) and male allyship. 

The 18 spokes correspond to five key focal points that highlight where change needs to occur. The five key points are education, community engagement, safety and security, health and wellbeing and the workplace. Spokes include higher education, political representation, sexual abuse and domestic violence, lifelong health, childcare, the gender pay gap and leadership development.

“The UWLP will work with all spoke leaders to craft 2026 and 2030 goals for each of their areas, with all being linked to measurable outcomes,” Madsen said. “To do this, my team will upscale our work in locating and tracking national and state data that can be regularly updated and visual dashboards and various reports to show progress towards the goal categories.”

Madsen said the BWF movement isn’t intended to succeed at the expense of men and boys. Instead, she believes through collaboration and cooperation there is room for everyone to be strengthened by the program. 

After studying change for several decades, Madsen hopes people understand that lifting women brings about positive societal change. BWF utilizes systems-thinking where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

She challenges leaders, employers, business owners and community partners to wake up to new ideas, remain vigilant and embrace change, even if it’s uncomfortable. 

“There are so many ways to be engaged and it’s going to take public policy, it’s going to take on-the-ground training and development and it’s going to take shifts in messaging,” she said. “I welcome you to do the work that needs to be done in terms of strengthening your top girls and women and helping to make sure everyone thrives.”

Madsen knows it will be an uphill road as leaders build programs and initiatives but said past efforts have not worked. It will take a concerted focus to make the road smoother and to fill in the societal potholes so the wheel of change can move forward. 

“Although the needle has moved slightly, ever so slightly… with its current trajectory, it will take us two, three to four decades to make notable progress” Madsen said. “I say that’s just too long. It’s time for Utah to embrace A Bolder Way Forward because when we lift Utah girls and women we do lift all Utahns, including families.”

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