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Tami Pyfer

Political Uniter

Leading a movement for dignity in American politics and inspiring women to take leadership roles.

Headshot of Tami Pyfer

The descendant of Mormon pioneers who came to Utah seeking community, Tami Pyfer grew up watching her parents live lives of service: They joined the library board, chartered a Boy Scout troop, and more. Today a parent herself, Pyfer has also found passion for community service. In a long and varied career, she has served as a special-education teacher, university instructor, PTA president, member of the Logan City Council, member of the Utah State Board of Education, singer with the Tabernacle Choir, and Education Policy Adviser to former Utah Governor Gary Herbert.

Pyfer’s experiences have led her to UNITE, a national nonprofit focused on healing America’s political and cultural divisions. There, she is the co-creator of The Dignity Index, which rates language that politicians use in speeches, debates, fundraising outreach, and more on a scale from 1 (highly contemptuous language) to 8 (language grounded in dignity). The goal: to nudge all political and public discourse toward the latter.

Pyfer has identified a common denominator throughout her career: working with women, from teachers shaping the next generation to mothers navigating a complex education system. Yet Utah consistently ranks as one of the worst states when it comes to the number of women in leadership positions. Pyfer wonders if, in addition to biases and long-standing gender roles, the current tenor of political conversation might have something to do with this. 

As an Emerson Collective Fellow, Pyfer will continue to build The Dignity Index, making it the basis of a movement for dignity in public discourse. This movement, she believes, will inspire more women to take leadership roles, from boardrooms to school boards. Surveying women across the state, Pyfer will test her hypothesis that contemptuous language and tactics—those rating low on The Dignity Index—dull women’s desire to step into the public eye. Then, in partnership with organizations that support female candidates, Pyfer will use The Dignity Index as a tool to recruit, train, and support women in public office.

More about The Emerson Collective Fellowship.

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