3 out of 13 Candidates for AS are Women
By Brianna Kuplent
There are not many explanations for the recent drop in the number of women running for Associated Students government positions. Out of 13 candidates, only three women will be on the ballot this year, compared with the eight women who ran last year, Elections Coordinator Remy Levin said.
“I think it’s important to continue efforts to be sure there’s a broad range of students representing people who identify a lot of different ways,” said Professor Sara Weir, political science department chair, who has written extensively about women in politics.
There should be widespread representation and leadership for students, she said.
When there is a mix of men and women in an organizational setting, there are more possibilities to deliberate and become team-oriented, Weir said.
“I’m proud to be one of the few women running, but I’m disappointed there’s not more,” said candidate for Vice President of Student Life Amanda Squires.
She said she doesn’t like that she cannot further support Katie Savinski, who is running for the same position.
“It’s good to represent and be out in the community,” Squires said. She said she hopes women feel represented.
Women are probably not running for office because they look at the requirements and think they don’t have what it takes, or they have other obligations, AS Women’s Center Coordinator Kimberly Absher said.
Mobilizing for other social issues at the moment such as family planning and other outside events also determine the number of female applicants running for office, Weir said.
Western’s Vice President for Diversity John Deng Duot was among the board members passing out supplies and encouraging students to apply in recent weeks, he said.
“We’re trying our best to make sure we have more women on the board,” Deng Duot said. “Actually, I’m really stressed out because we only have three women running, and two are running for the same position.”
In spring of 2011, there was a large number of students running: 26 candidates, eight of which were women.
From the number of female candidates running each year, it only takes one person deciding not to run to make a significant difference, Levin said, in terms of numbers and percentages.
“I think the voice and opinion of women would be less represented,” Squires said about the number of female candidates. “I would encourage more women to run next year, and they deserve to have their opinions represented in student government.”
Western has hosted events catered toward encouraging women to run for student offices, said AS Board President Anna Ellermeier. The “Elect Her” event last February opened doors for women to learn more about leadership and leadership positions, she said.
The focus of the event was not only on running for the board, but women assuming leadership positions, Ellenmeier said.
“All the various ways that leadership can manifest itself in roles we take on are important, and I think that’s another important takeaway from this year, not having as many women run for the board,” she said.
It’s important to recognize the other women in leadership positions, such as lifestyle advisers or captains of athletic teams and their significance in the community, Ellermeier said.
“It’s not an oddity to see women in office,” Weir said, referring to local women in leadership roles: Bellingham has a female mayor, and Washington state has a female governor, two female senators and more than 30 percent of the state legislators are women.
It’s important to encourage women to run for the board, Ellermeier said.
On a national scale, research from the Women’s Campaign Forum Foundation from recent years shows only six states have a female governor. Out of the countries where women can debate and vote in the legislatures, studies show that the U.S. comes in 90th.
“We need to continue encouraging students, we need to continue empowering students to get involved,” Deng Duot said. “The wonderful job that has been done by women this year needs to be continued. And to change the nation, we need women.”
Other events are focused on students of all genders developing their leadership abilities and their capacities, Ellermeier said.
When Ellermeier was in the running for AS president last year, she said she saw it as an opportunity to contribute to the community she said provided her with a learning experience. She said she wanted to give that opportunity to present and future students.
“I think that it’s important that we recognize that it’s not just the obligation of women to run for the board,” she said. “But it’s all of our responsibility to ensure we have an elected board that represents the diverse make-up and diverse interests of Western,” and encourages students to always push for representation of all students.