University & societies need to encourage female leadership

Queen’s administration and student societies can help address the confidence gap that continues to stifle female participation in leadership roles.

Last Friday, the Journal published an opinion piece by contributor Tuba Chishti — chair of the AMS Board of Directors — where she argued that more women should pursue leadership opportunities at Queen’s.

Only 34 per cent of candidates for elected student government positions over the past five years have been women — despite over 55 per cent of students being female. The issue isn’t that women aren’t elected; it’s that they aren’t running in the first place.

Low female participation is a result of socialization from a young age, where girls are conditioned to be more wary of risks than boys. This lack of confidence was expressed in a Hewlett-Packard study, which found that women tend to only apply for promotions if they believe they’ve met 100 per cent of the qualifications, while men often apply when they meet just 60 per cent.

This socialization needs to be addressed while girls are still young, but support and encouragement to pursue leadership roles can also be directed to adult women.

Not all Queen’s societies have low female leadership rates; the past two Engineering Society (EngSoc) presidents, for example, have been women. Campus organizations such as Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) make a particular effort to encourage women to be more confident in their professions.

More societies need to adapt strategies to ensure women feel confident vying for leadership positions. Organizations and mentorship programs for young women need to be established, so that female students have resources and role models they can be inspired by.

Another potential solution is to remove barriers that persist in student government. The AMS and other society elections are often poorly advertised in the weeks and months leading up to nomination periods. This is disadvantageous for individuals who don’t know the inner workings of student government.

These barriers will only further discourage women who lack confidence in their abilities despite their qualifications.

Although this won’t solve the underlying social issues at play, it will assist in ensuring that positions are more accessible, which could lead to more diversity among candidates.

Journal Editorial Board

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