Males dominate USC prez elections

Female candidates, presidents rare since USC's inception

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western is nearing the end of its University Students’ Council election period and, as usual, the next president will be male.

The USC has had only four female presidents since its incorporation in 1965. Gillian Anderson was the USC’s most recent female president " in 1995.

The USC doesn’t suffer from a dearth of female councillors and faculty presidents. Including the Board of Directors and governors, councillors, faculty presidents and senators, council is comprised of 45 females and 54 males. Numerous co-ordinators and commissioners are also female.

Moreover, USC President Fab Dolan confirmed women don’t shy away from the election process. Sixty-five per cent of last year’s voters were female.

Many council members said they find the issue perplexing and couldn’t pinpoint a particular reason why females choose leadership positions within the USC but don’t run for president.

“I guess it’s traditional for mostly guys to run,” said Kathleen Davis, Social Science Students’ Council president. “But that wouldn’t prevent me... I think because we’re an academic institution we’re fairly progressive.”

Some suggested the problem could be more systemic and might be a product of socialization or the nature of the political game itself.

Paris Meilleur, USC VP-education, said presidential candidate Tom Stevenson was right when he said there’s something wrong with the game when only half the population is playing.

“I think the political game " and not just the USC, but federally and provincially as well " lends itself to a much more argumentative, combative [persona],” Meilleur said. “It’s not consensus-building.”

Karen Jackson became the first female general manager of the USC in 2005.

“If you think about women and the roles we play, we don’t always put ourselves out there,” she said. “Sometimes that’s just not our personality...for whatever reason, women don’t seek the limelight.”

Fourth-year student Amy Bi was Dolan’s campaign manager and one of several managers for last year’s president, Ryan Dunn. She said she considered running this year and wasn’t intimidated, but changed her mind after deciding she was better suited for communications officer.

“What people perceive as the mould of a president could be a reason [women don’t run],” she said. “[The] past few have shared many common qualities so they can sometimes seem cookie-cut.”

Dolan said the issue has never been addressed by the USC because it hasn’t been raised as a problem. He has hope for the future because this year’s council features many strong female councillors and faculty presidents.

Meilleur suggested more drastic measures may be needed.

“Maybe we have to start talking about radical ideas like gender parity,” she said. “I’m not saying we should institute it, but maybe we need to have a report with some really strong ideas.”

Bi suggested another approach.

“I don’t know if it should be a big concern for the USC because each year we get a good president, but they should do more to encourage all kinds of people to run,” she said. “We should encourage younger people to build on their skills so they stay involved.”

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