Where Are The Women In Idaho?

OPINION By Marty Trillhaase Lewiston Tribune, Idaho.

In Idaho, being a woman means you're probably not going to get appointed to a government job. At least not one reserved for the guys.

So say Boise State University political scientists Jaclyn Kettler and Justin Vaughn. They looked over 5,000 posts and found women hold just 30.8 percent of appointments in state government.

It's little better in the counties, where women account for 34.4 percent. In the cities, women have been named to 38.4 percent of the jobs.

Women are scarce among the boards and commissions Kettler and Vaughn deemed to have a "traditionally masculine focus," such as commerce, natural resources or economy.

Women hold about 15.8 percent of those positions. For instance, all seven Idaho Fish and Game Commission members are men, including Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's two most recent nominees -- Dan Blanco of Moscow and Kenneth Anderson of Rigby. Five of the seven Idaho Transportation Board members are men.

On the other hand, women occupy 51.1 percent of the posts Kettler and Vaughn rated as having a "stereotypically feminine" agenda, such as health and children. That's why you see seven of the nine state nursing board slots held by women. With the election of state schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra, the eight-member State Board of Education is equally split between men and women.

Here's the galling part: None of this is new.

A decade ago, the Institute for Women's Policy Research gave Idaho a D for how it treated women politically and an F for how women were faring economically.

When the institute updated those numbers this year, Idaho's numbers actually slipped -- D-minus for political participation and F for economic standing.

But what else would you expect? This is a state where:

--Joan Hurlock of Buhl, only the second woman appointed to the Fish and Game Commission, lost a 2013 Senate confirmation vote

-- after Resources and Conservation Committee Chairman Monte Pearce offered to help her get appointed to the nursing board.

--Pam Lowe, the state's first female transportation director, collected a $750,000 settlement on her wrongful termination lawsuit, which -- among other things -- accused former Transportation Board member Gary Blick of saying at the time of her hiring: "No little girl would be able to run this department."

--No woman serves on the Supreme Court -- a distinction Idaho shares with Iowa. As of 2012, Idaho ranked last in the country with only 11.3 percent of its judicial appointments handed to women. And earlier this year, U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch fended off accusations that they were ignoring qualified female applicants for retired U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge's job.

--The Idaho Women's Commission lost its funding in 2009. "I think their day has come and gone," former Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, said.

--Three years ago, when Otter hired Jeff Sayer as his commerce chief and set his starting pay at $145,000, the governor had to explain reports showing the female members of his cabinet were paid far less. For instance, 15 of Otter's top male lieutenants earned more than his highest paid female appointee, Agriculture Director Celia Gould.

--In defending his 2012 bill forcing women to undergo an invasive transvaginal ultrasound before getting an abortion, Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, argued: "I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape? I assume that's part of the counseling that goes on."

--When the 2014 Idaho GOP convention in Moscow got a little testy, Chuck Reitz of Shoshone County, co-chairman of the convention's credentials committee, had this to say: "Just hold on, take a breath and go refresh your lipstick."

So do all the studies you want.

As long as the crowd running things believes any problem can be fixed with a breather and lip gloss, is anything ever going to change? -- M.T.

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