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Davis Journal

Society benefits by giving girls and women a bigger leadership voice

Feb 29, 2024 09:49AM ● By Kerry Angelbuer
Susan R. Madsen, Ph. D. is the founder of A Bolder Way Forward, an initiative to help more Utah women and girls thrive. Courtesy photo

Susan R. Madsen, Ph. D. is the founder of A Bolder Way Forward, an initiative to help more Utah women and girls thrive. Courtesy photo

Hundreds of studies suggest that having both feminine and masculine views in leadership meetings can result in better problem solving and decision making. Some of the strengths women bring to the leadership table include the ability to think more holistically, to look for win-win situations rather than win-lose, and to better read the non-verbal cues in those they are collaborating with. 

Bountiful resident, Dr. Susan Madsen said that often female leaders are seen more positively by employees and women leaders encourage more attention to the impacts on the community and world rather than the more linear thinking of their male counterparts. It is not just in the interest of girls and women, but of all of society to give them a bigger more meaningful leadership voice. One woman in an all-male leadership is not enough, she said. Three or more, or even better, an equal amount would be the better goal. 

“Start young empowering the girls in your life,” said Madsen. Instead of complementing them on their looks, note their competencies and unique internal gifts. 

Utah lags behind almost all the states in protecting their girls and woman from physical/sexual abuse and gender discrimination. Additionally, she said Utah ranks “as the worst state for women’s equality and having low levels of women’s leadership representation in nearly all domains, including business and politics.”

“Although the needle has moved slightly in a few areas, with its current trajectory, it will take two, three, or even four decades to make notable progress,” said Madsen. “It is time for Utah to embrace a Bolder Way Forward (BWF).” 

Instead of waiting decades, Madsen wants to see meaningful changes by 2030, with a check point in 2026. The framework for the Bolder Way Forward includes 18 spokes encompassing education, workplace equity, health and wellbeing, community engagement and importantly, safety and security. It is not OK for the norm to be sexual harassment, lower wages, widespread domestic violence, lower rates of college completion, ignoring basic health care, and allowing women to take a more subservient role in work, church, and the family, she said.

“It is an uphill battle,” said Madsen, but by systematically combining all the pro-women efforts throughout the state, real progress can be achieved. 

Madsen is an endowed professor of leadership in the School of Business at Utah State University. She is considered a global leader in speaking and researching about leadership and women. She has written multiple books, articles and chapters and has been asked to speak and train locally, nationally and internationally. A mother of four and a grandmother of six, she works long hours, constantly brainstorming ways to make a more equitable, safe world for her female posterity and others. She feels this work is her calling and often volunteers her time and resources to further her pro-women agenda. She speaks on the radio, has a newsletter with a large subscriber base, and hosts two different podcasts. Madsen has a strong, credible voice and is often mentioned in newspaper articles advocating for fair treatment of women. Though she finds all the attention humbling at times, she feels empowered by the mission of the BWF which is “to make Utah a place where more girls and women can thrive in any setting (e.g., home, workplace, congregation, and community).”