Male, female proportions vary by club

Joe Cramer

For the first time in a number of years, some prominent and long-standing campus organizations will have female leadership next year. 

Both Student Government Association and Blue Key Society are seeing female leadership for the 2010-’11 academic year, reversing a trend within each organization that has favored male leadership for the past several terms.

Juniors Bridget Halligan and Allison Webb were recently elected to the positions of president and vice president of SGA, respectively, over two all-male tickets. They are the first all-female ticket to be elected.

“It is a significant moment in SGA history to have the first all-female team leading for the next academic year,” Director of Student Development Tom Mogan said. “It speaks a lot to Bridget and Allison’s campaign.”

 Halligan and Webb ran on a platform that emphasized their commitment to and prior experience in SGA, campaigning against two tickets with no SGA experience, which Mogan sees as more influential in their victory than the fact that they were an all-female ticket.

 “It was the campaign they put together and their experience,” Mogan said.

Despite a membership that was composed of 64 percent women last semester, the SGA president and vice president were male for the past academic year, and men comprised a majority of the executive board, holding seven out of nine positions. 

According to Halligan, spring recruitment for SGA has resulted in 15 new male members and 22 new female ones, so females will compose 59 percent of the group, down from last year. At the same time, the incoming executive board for the 2010-’11 academic year has a male-to-female ratio of 5-to-4.

 “We appointed who we thought [was qualified], and only afterward looked at it in terms of diversity of sex,” Halligan said.

 Blue Key Society is composed of 260 members, 60 percent of whom are female. Yet for the past academic term, the five-person executive board was composed of men entirely, headed by a male president. 

For the first time in the past five years, a female president, junior Molly Huggard will head Blue Key. The executive board will also diversify with three males and two females. To Catherine Kerrison, co-director of the gender and women’s studies program, these statistics are encouraging, but not representative of the whole picture.

“It’s more than the numbers,” Kerrison said about the recent SGA elections. “It doesn’t signal to me that the problems of gender on campus have been resolved. I think we can be cheered by this kind of event if it happens more often, and if it happens unremarked.”

Kerrison pointed out the importance of considering the nature of the work each organization does when looking at the composition of its membership and leadership.

“The unspoken but generally understood prestige of that work matters for leadership,” Kerrison said. “If a position is generally understood to be a ‘guy’s position,’ it might dissuade women from competing for it.”

Service organizations, such as those run through Campus Ministry, have generally skewed more female, Mogan observed.

“I think there was a trend of women assuming leadership roles in service organizations to the point where men gravitated away from service organizations and assumed leadership in other organizations,” Mogan said.

Bigs and Littles, a mentorship program on campus, has a current membership of 52 students, of whom 79 percent are female. Its current leadership reflects this majority, as its president, junior Brooke Evans, and five out of its six co-chairs are female.

The leadership of certain media-related organizations reflect more of an even split between men and women. The incoming 2010-’11 executive board for WXVU is composed of eight men and six women, while the incoming board for VTV is composed of seven men and four women. The previous year’s VTV executive board had one female on staff.

“Perceptions of the job can shape both men’s and women’s decisions to run for those positions,” Kerrison said.

While Mogan doesn’t want organizations to place excessive emphasis on sex when considering appointments to leadership positions, he is aware that diversity of leadership holds importance on an expanding campus.

“If an organization is overrepresented in membership but underrepresented in leadership, then something should be looked at,” Mogan said. “We should be conscious of selecting a diverse group for leadership to reflect the growing diversity of our student body.”