New organization connects women in politics

After working at political think tanks for years, Janice Houston got sick of being excluded from lunch and golf by her male colleagues.

So she created the Cassandra Network, a new sister organization to the U Center for Public Policy and Administration, designed to provide networking for women working or interested in working in the field of politics.

Houston, who is now the senior policy analyst for the CPPA, wants the organization to provide opportunities for young women going into politics to network with one another and receive mentoring from women already in the field.

To celebrate the kickoff of the new organization, a forum was held in the Hinckley Institute on Jan. 12 to discuss the role women play in Utah politics.

Panel members included Karen Okabe, deputy mayor for Salt Lake County; D’Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, director of administrative services for the state of Utah; Weber State history professor and author Kathryn MacKay and Natalie Gochnour of the Salt Lake Chamber.

The panel discussed the difficulties women face in politics and how each panel member has worked to overcome those obstacles throughout her career.

MacKay said that women are successful in getting involved in issues that concern the family and children through religious and community groups but struggle more when it comes to other areas.

Pignanelli had a different outlook on her career.

“I don’t think we should continue to dwell on the past?we need to move forward. The only thing men have excluded me from was their dirty jokes,” she said.

Okabe stressed the fact that the wage gap between men and women in Utah is the largest in the nation.

“The glass ceiling may still be alive and well?it’s just not as visible as it used to be,” she said.

MacKay added that a good way to fight the “glass ceiling” is to raise awareness of the wage gap.

Women interested in becoming involved in the Cassandra Network can get more information online at

[email protected]