January 11, 2016

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Economic Outlook

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Utah Valley Regional Roundtable

January 11, 2016

RICHARDS: We're doing a really good job commingling the predominant religious LDS culture with people wearing lots of piercings and working together at the same companies. A lot of workers are coming here and not feeling uncomfortable being non-LDS as much as I felt 10 years ago. There's a good balancing act going on.

My real concern is women in positions in technology, business and in entrepreneurship. It's still just as hard to attract women to these careers as it was when I first got to Utah from Seattle. People that come from outside still roll their eyes at us at how few women are participating. If I wanted to put on a conference with the top 20 greatest female entrepreneurs in Utah, I'd have a hard time getting five or six that would be leaders and want to talk about it.

And there are so few women studying computer science and coding here compared to other parts of the country. We're lagging in that area and I don't know what to do about it. But it's getting to be a problem because it's stopping other areas from taking us as seriously as they need to because, we're down in the 110th percentile where other places are at 45 percent.   

SCOTT: So many women work; they just don't tell you guys. They have businesses all across the state. They're just maybe not on the surface.   

RICHARDS: But where are the women who are software engineers? Where are the women that are starting scalable ventures that will create wealth and jobs?   

CURTIS: One of the problems we have is that the system is geared around youth and those entering the workplace and coming out of college. If we can figure out how to adjust that system to capture women who are 40 or 50 with time now and skill sets who are ready to come back into the workplace—because a lot of them have been out of the workplace or out of education for a number of years.

PILMER: I find some of the greatest talent in my industry is among women who had gone home to raise children and yet they want to keep their skills up. So our company's been doing teleworking since the get-go. And the more companies that adapt to the woman's paradigm of trying to do it all, the more we'll see success coming out of the woodwork. Because there's a lot of skills out there, a lot of college-trained people that are just putting their priorities in different places. But the technology we have makes it possible to telework and connect wherever we are in the world.   

WHEELER: I wonder, 10, 15 years from now, after the change in missionary age, how that will change with women and the workplace. I would imagine that 10, 15 years from now we'll see a shift of some sort.   

RAHLF: I held a discussion with Alison Lew at Provo City—we got a group of women entrepreneurs together to ask them what resources they need to stimulate their ability to grow their business or interact in the business community. The number one thing we heard was childcare. Because they are juggling their children with doing work in the home. They say, if you ask us to come and participate in something like this, are you going to have a nursery? Why don't you have a nursery? You want me here, but you're not providing those kinds of things.   

As business, it’s probably something down the road that we've got to figure out. It was loud and clear from the women that were there.   

LOCKHART: I'm an ambassador for STEM education in the state. We've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to reach out to young women. I was recently at a Women Tech Council luncheon where 800 women were in the room who are doing incredible things in the business world. And I just couldn't help but think we need to get all 330,000 of our school-aged children into that room to see these really successful, highly motivated, innovative women. Because they were quite inspiring if we can just get the future generation to see what they're doing. These are non-traditional paths that we're asking them to take, and we need to have really entrepreneurial, innovative women step up and be the example so that young women can say, "I can do that."   

ROSSI: Diversity overall is a challenge in Utah County and across our state. Although we're getting a little bit more diverse—it is happening—but it's not happening as quickly as lots of other major MSAs are. There are lots of companies, especially the Silicon Valley groups, that ask, "What's your percentage of non-white males in the workplace?"   

And, well "It's not good," is the answer. It's getting better, but diversity as a whole is a big challenge for Utah, especially for companies who are coming into Utah.   

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