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Women Policy Makers to Share Insight Next Week at U of U Forum

Jan. 6, 2006- While women make up 51 percent of the U.S. population, their numbers are startlingly low when it comes to participation in politics-both in Utah and in the United States.

According to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, 81 of the 535 members, or about 15 percent, of the United States Congress are women. Currently, there are only eight women serving as governors in the U.S. The University of Utah’s Center for Public Policy and Administration (CPPA) reports that four of the 29 senators in the Utah State Legislature are women and 17 of the 75 House members are women. Historically, Utah has elected only three women to the U.S House of Representatives and has never elected a woman to the U.S. Senate.

A discussion on how women influence public policy decisions in Utah will be held on Thursday, Jan. 12, from 11 a.m. until noon, in the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics’ Caucus Room, located in room 255 of Orson Spencer Hall, on the U campus. The Hinckley Institute and the Cassandra Network at the U’s CPPA will sponsor the event, which is free and open to the public. A light reception will follow.

A trio of women policy makers from Utah will share personal experiences working in the public sector-at the local, state and national levels. Participants will include Karen Okabe, deputy mayor of Salt Lake County; Natalie Gochnour, vice president for communication and policy at the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce; and D’Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, executive director of administrative services of the State of Utah. Among other topics, panelists will discuss whether and how gender has influenced their decision-making and why they have chosen and continued in public administration. They will also offer advice to other women who are thinking of entering political life. The discussion will be hosted by RadioWest host Doug Fabrizio and will be aired live on KUER FM 90.

The Cassandra Network aims to meet the professional needs of women policy analysts and policymakers in Utah through support services, such as networking opportunities, public forums, meetings and mentoring. We believe that there are many women working in public policy that are an untapped resource and who can become the next legislators, elected officials and leaders. More information about the Cassandra Network is at

For more information on next week’s forum or on the Center for Public Policy and Administration, call 801-581-6781 or visit