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Elevating Women: ‘Conversations with Exceptional Women’ address gender gap

Nine of the eleven speakers pose at the ‘Conversations with Exceptional Women’ event Thursday at the Downtown Event Center. Pictured are EIRMC CEO Betsy Hunsicker, Idaho Falls Arts Council Executive Director Brandi Newton, Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake, former New York Times sportswriter Karen Crouse, women’s advocate Lacie Marie, CNN commentator Caroline Heldman, Alturas Institute President David Adler, Olympic figure skating champion Gracie Gold and Teton Auto Group Human Resources Manager Crystal Zmak.
IDAHO FALLS — As a figure skating bronze medalist in the 2014 Sochi Olympics and two-time 2014 and 2016 national champion, Gracie Gold appeared to have an ideal, elite life, but inwardly she wrestled with negative, self-defeating thoughts that led to a serious eating disorder and mental health struggles.
“In something like the pursuit of the Olympics, you know, being a perfectionist came in handy,” Gold says. “Figure skating is a sport of trying to be perfect. There always is something that you can do better, right, which is why when I was younger, I was so drawn to it.”
But eventually, her world came crashing down.
“I didn’t have a lot of great coping mechanisms modeled to me as a young child,” she says, “… (I was) kind of left to my own devices in a sport where, you know, the whole point is to do the hardest stuff while making it look effortless, right?
“The whole thing was absolutely maddening. And at some point … I finally snapped and controversially, let everybody know what I thought of them.”
Her memoir, “Outofshapeworthlessloser” — just released in February — has skyrocketed to the top-of-the-charts on The New York Times bestseller list.
Gold was one of eleven speakers at the thirteenth annual “Conversations with Exceptional Women,” sponsored by the Alturas Institute, featuring panels of local women and national experts who were recognized for their contributions to the community or to women’s rights at large.
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At Thursday’s event, Idaho National Laboratory received the third annual “Susan B. Anthony Award” for creating a work environment where women thrive, are promoted and receive adequate support.
But not all women live or work in similar environments.
“We live in a patriarchy where we value men more than we value women,” says Caroline Heldman, Alturas Institute board chairwoman and a political scientist at Occidental College in Los Angeles. “We know that just based on data.”
In recent years, more and more women are choosing not to have children.
“In 2018, 37% of women who were 18 to 40 years old were choosing to be child-free,” Heldman says. “(That jumped to) 44% in 2023.”
But she says that women have achieved incredible steps forward in the last 50 years “economically, politically and socially.”
She cites Title IX, which has increased women’s sports participation approximately 20 times.
“In corporate leadership, 10% of Fortune 500 companies are run by women,” Heldman says. “Twenty-two percent are board members, and 25% of C-suite executives are women.”
While a definite gap exists, women’s participation is a fourfold increase from one decade ago.
Politically, today 29% of members of the U.S. House of Representatives are women and 25% of the U.S. Senate are women, she says.
For wages, on average, women earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by a white male, according to Heldman.
However, “not all the women are making the same progress at the same pace,” she says.

Asian women (Asian American Pacific Islander) earn 93 cents to a white male’s dollar
White women receive 83 cents
Black women earn 70 cents
Latino women make 65 cents
Native and indigenous women earn 59 cents

Likewise, in homes where both a husband and wife are employed, women still perform 65% of the domestic work.
Other presenters included Karen Crouse who ghostwrote Gold’s memoir and is a former New York Times sports journalist who covered swimming, golf and the Olympics. She shared her role persuading the prestigious Augusta National Golf Club to allow women to golf on its greens. Its first memberships were offered to Darla Moore and Condoleezza Rice, she said.
On a local level, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center CEO Betsy Hunsicker, Idaho Falls Arts Council Executive Director Brandi Newton, and Idaho National Laboratory Communications Director Sara Prentice spoke about the challenges of work-life balance they face as working moms.
“It’s not achievable, there is no such thing as balance,” Prentice said. “I view this more as the teeter-totter (or) seesaws. There are weeks when it is all work, … and then next week, I will be with my kids all week because they are on spring break.”
Teton Auto Group Human Resources Manager Crystal Zmak and Idaho Environmental Coalition Senior Director of Regulatory and Strategic Initiatives Dana Kirkham also spoke about their “fair but firm” and “direct” decision-making and leadership styles.
Lindsey Blake addressed her work as the Fremont County prosecutor in the Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell cases. The St. Anthony native said she applied to the position while living in Salt Lake City.
“Shortly after I had the (primary) results was when it hit just how major the case was going to be,” she said. “At the time, the investigation into Tammy’s death was ongoing, so I knew there was a chance Fremont would be involved.”
Idaho Period Project Vice President Brooke Nelson and double mastectomy survivor Lacey Marie also presented their stories and work advocating for women in Idaho.
More than 230 women and men attended the event, which featured a no-host reception, dinner, book signing and conversation following the program.
The post Elevating Women: ‘Conversations with Exceptional Women’ address gender gap appeared first on East Idaho News.

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