Deidre Henderson has served as chair of the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee, on the Business and Labor Committee, and has chaired the Education Committee and the Senate Rules Committee. As Lt. Gov., she oversees elections in Utah and acts as the liaison with the eight federally recognized Native American tribes. Despite her many roles and extensive experience, she has always been in politics.
Henderson married young and did not finish college. Instead, she worked two jobs to help her husband through physical therapy school. “I had five children very quickly, and I joke, I spent 13 years wiping noses and bottoms before I did much else outside of the walls of my home,” she said. “Then I got involved in politics, making phone calls for a congressional candidate, and ran his political operation out of my laundry room for about four years.”
In 2012, she won a Utah Senate seat and served eight years before being elected Lt. Gov. in 2020. Since being in office, Henderson has used her experience as a mother re-entering the workforce to improve the experiences of women in Utah through the Return Utah program. “In 2021, we started the Return Utah program, which is a returnship for experienced adults who have been out of the workplace for an extended period of time who are looking to get back into the workforce,” she adds. “We identified this as a particular place that we wanted to focus on, that goal of making sure that we increase people’s opportunities to succeed and thrive in their lives.”
This initiative is important to Henderson because after her youngest child started school, she wanted to do something new but didn’t know how. She explained, “I didn’t know how to feel like I was adding value and contributing. Taking that experience, I wanted to make sure that we helped other people with the transition of getting back into the workforce.”
From her perspective, the Return Utah program is a great opportunity for the state government to examine policies and practices and ensure that Utah is family-friendly. It makes careers after motherhood, or any extended absence, feel more accessible, especially for women. “We want people to know that their life choices, what works for them, is important,” she adds. “ We, as state government, are here to make sure that they are getting the opportunities that they need to have, when they need to have them, and when it works for them.”