Springville Curtis Town Hall

Representative John Curtis answers Yvette Rivera's question about immigration legislation on Thursday, August 29. 2019, in Springville. (Michael Schnell, special to the Daily Herald).

United States Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, announced last week the establishment of a women’s advisory council made up of female lawmakers and business leaders in the state to counsel him on issues impacting women in Utah.

Curtis said in a press release on Friday, Jan. 10, that, as the representative of a district that has more women in it than men, “it is imperative that the female perspective is heard and given a real influence on my decisions.”

According to the press release, the six-person advisory council will meet throughout the year, beginning in February, and will have an open line of communication with the 3rd District representative “to share ideas and concerns about policies and proposals at any time.”

One of the women on the advisory council is Patricia Jones, a former Democratic state senator and congresswoman who founded the Women’s Leadership Institute. Jones said that having input from women can lead to better policy since women bring their own experiences and ideas to the table.

“I think women bring different perspectives to decision-making than men,” Jones said. “I think it’s important for men who are in Congress to hear that perspective.”

Jones added that there is often a “gender gap” in opinions on political and social issues. Poll data shows that women tend to care more about education, health care, environmental issues and gun safety than men do, she said.

When Jones started the Women’s Leadership Institute five years ago, then-Provo Mayor Curtis was curious about the institute and how it could benefit Utah, said Jones.

“He was very interested (in) and passionate about elevating women in business and in politics,” she said.

State Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, who is also serving on Curtis’ advisory council, said she is grateful for the opportunity to advise the congressman and bring attention to things that affect women in the state.

“Any opportunity to bring issues related to women … in the economy and our state” is a good thing, Escamilla said.

Some of the things that need addressing, Escamilla said, are violence against women, including sexual assault, the wage gap and access to high quality child care for working women.

“The more we bring these barriers down and allow opportunities for women to succeed, then the stronger our state is and our economy and our families,” the state senator said.

In an emailed statement, Curtis said women “bring a unique perspective” to policy-making and that he hopes the council will advise him on how Utah women “are specifically impacted by my decisions.”

By having a “continuous influence” on Curtis as he represents the state at the federal level, the council will help give “Utah’s women a real voice in the legislative process,” he said.

The other members of the advisory council are Karen McCandless, director of Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo, Geri Gamber, director of the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Government, University Place Event Coordinator Nichelle Jensen and Women’s Tech Council co-founder Sara Jones.

Also on Jan. 10, Curtis introduced a resolution before Congress to establish Jan. 11, 2020 as “National Martha Hughes Cannon Day” in honor of the women’s suffragist who was elected to the Utah Senate in 1896, becoming the first female state senator in U.S. history.

Utah’s three other congressional representatives, Rep. Rob Bishop, Rep. Chris Stewart and Rep. Ben McAdams, cosponsored the resolution, according to a press release.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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