Editorial Board 1998-99
A look at the statistics of the number of Western women who have either run or been elected to the University Students' Council presidency in recent history creates a definite cause for concern.
Only 10 per cent of presidential candidates in the last decade have been women and the 1990s have only seen one female president emerge from a campus which currently sees that gender holding a 52 per cent majority
Because the issue of women's equality in politics is a hotly debated topic and little has been done to find out the reasons behind the small numbers of women involved, no one contributing factor can be said to be keeping women out of the race.
Perhaps the pure fact of the matter is apathy. Women on Western's campus must just simply not care. Is there something inherent in the genetic makeup of the female sex which controls women's interests and drives? If this is the case, why are there so many women enrolled in the faculties of political science and law? Are the women who do succeed in politics simply anomalies to be wondered at?
Suggestions have been made that women tend to be more "practical" and the sacrifices made during a presidential campaign are often seen as impractical in the scheme of one's scholarly career. Statements such as this one, however, reduce the problem to a shared characteristic inherent in the psychological makeup of all women. Could this be the case?
A report entitled Women's Participation in the USC: Identifying Barriers and Proposing Solutions was done in 1991 by Jenny Bolton, a former director-at-large. Bolton surveyed USC councillors and concluded that contributing factors to the low numbers of women in the election were mainly due to the atmosphere of the USC. Sexist or racist jokes or language was reported by 67 per cent of female councillors surveyed, while only 15 per cent of males reported the same. As well, 67 per cent of women reported they felt they were not taken as seriously as men.
A similar study needs to be undertaken now, as eight years have passed and the number of female candidates has still not really changed. Some may feel the numbers do not reflect a problem. But there is a problem if women are not running due to a conflict in the structure of the USC, the perceived attitudes of campus politics, or that women feel they cannot be leaders due to a stereotype which hails from the '50s.
It is important the trend changes. Not for the reason of evening out the numbers, but to allow for an environment in which people are looked at as just people regardless of gender.