UVU all-women's panel sparks racial controversy

"She Talks" panelists are all white, minorities want representation

OREM, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - An upcoming panel discussion at Utah Valley University featuring influential Utah women has some in the Latino community angry at the event's so-called "lack of diversity."

"She Talks Utah: Finding Our Voices and the Courage to Use Them" will be held Nov. 2 at UVU. The five-part speaker series aims to help encourage women to "find their unique voice and the courage to use it in different ways to be a force for good." 

Each of the panelists is white, and several are high-profile LDS women, including Jenny Oaks Baker, Grammy-award winning violinist and daughter of LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks. 

Some minorities, specifically in the Latino community, were upset Wednesday about what they call a "lack of diversity" at the event. 

"This so-called 'leadership conference' is not in tune with changing demographics of the state," said Antonella Packard, state president of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). "The fact that this is a women's leadership conference, seemingly sponsored by a public university showcasing an all LDS white women panel serves to perpetuate the message that women of color in Utah do not have leaders amongst us, which is far from the truth," Packard added. 

Last year, the same panel did feature more racially diverse panelists, including Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah). 

Dr. Susan R. Madsen, founder of Utah Women & Leadership Project and professor at UVU, organized the event. In a phone conversation with ABC4 Utah, she said this was not at all an intentional slight against the Latino community or any minority group. 

"At our last event we had two or three of our presenters- people of color," said Madsen, who added UVU and her group embrace diversity. "For this particular panel we really looked for women of...different sectors and skill sets," she said.

Madsen also added that she reached out to about 25 different women of various racial backgrounds to participate, spending three months planning the November event. 

Still, some are calling for Madsen to add more speakers of color to the event. 

"Utah County lives in a bubble," said accomplished author and Utah County resident Gloria Arredondo. "Someone needs to burst that bubble. Add more people to it...add the color!"

The "She Talks" panel discussion is Nov. 2 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on UVU's campus. 


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