Introducing the Women of SGA

Cassie McHugh Co Editor-in-Chief

The 116th United States Congress made history when it convened for the first time on January 3, with a record 102 women now serving in the House of Representatives and 25 women serving in the Senate. Combined, they make up nearly a quarter of Congress’ voting membership, the highest percentage of female representation in our nation’s history.

It might not yet be equal representation, but it’s certainly progress—another achievement in the midst of a renewed feminist fight and the wave of women empowerment that has encompassed the globe over the past few years, spurred by movements like #MeToo, the Women’s March, and the Global Girls Alliance.  

On the University’s campus, female student leaders have taken note and say the push for increased female leadership is long overdue. 

“This isn’t just a society of men where problems only affect men,” McKenzie Mix, SGA’s Vice President of Public Relations, said. “Women are here. Women see the issues. Women are around the issues.”

Student Body Vice President Bridie Dunn said recent political events like the testimony by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination process have highlighted the need for more female viewpoints in government. She pointed towards pictures of Ford testifying in front of an almost entirely white and male senate judiciary committee as a glaring example of the implications of a government lacking diversity.   

“They just can’t provide the same perspective as women can,” Dunn said. “Most people—a scary amount of people—even if they aren’t victims themselves, they know someone [who’s been sexually assaulted]. Even if you don’t, women understand how it feels to walk alone at night and the fears that are in the back of your mind, no matter the age or who you are. As a woman, I believe that’s something that’s almost innate to you. So, I think just if we had more women’s voices, they could provide that perspective within government.”

On campus, the Student Government Association has made a conscious effort to increase and maintain diversity within the University’s student leadership. Of the 47 SGA members listed on the association’s website, 22 are women. The association also includes senators representing the Multicultural Student Union, VU Pride and Disability Services and a Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Mix said diverse perspectives are important in helping the association create meaningful change on campus.    

“I think that’s what we strive for is to get that representation from absolutely everyone, because there’s a multitude of different problems that when you only get one viewpoint, you don’t get to see, and therefore you can’t make wholistic change,” Mix said.

All seven of the women interviewed for this article described the climate of SGA as inclusive and nondiscriminatory. They conveyed shared sentiments of feeling valued and respected for their ideas and opinions, and none said that they had encountered any situations of gender discrimination during their time with the association. Dunn even said that she believes Student Body President Anthony Busa’s desire for a female perspective was a major factor in him approaching her to run on the Presidential ticket together last year. 

“In SGA, we don’t judge ideas based on who is saying them,” Sciences Senator and Committee Chair of Intellectual Climate Amanda Rappa said. “We judge it based on the idea, and so no matter who’s bringing it to the table, it’s valued for what is actually is.”

Maura Rose, Class of 2020 Senator and Dean of the Senate, who hopes to work in investment banking after graduating, said that she places a high priority on finding a similarly inclusive environment, with women represented on the executive level and programs for maternity leave in her future workplace.  

While the recent women’s movements have been a step in the right direction, the group said there’s still a long way to go.

“It’s going to take a lot of time for things to be truly equal,” Rose said. 

She echoed her SGA peers in expressing a belief that as female student leaders, they have a responsibility to support and mentor other women to pursue positions of leadership. 

“It’s taking a conscious effort to really encourage women to try out for leadership positions,” Rose said. “Like me, going the extra mile and being like, ‘Oh, you should apply to be the committee chair for your committee next semester,’ and encouraging women to advocate for themselves. Empowered women empower women.”

Mix said she hopes that in the future, gender equality in politics and society is so standard that articles like this one won’t need to be written. 

“I hope that women being involved isn’t something that’s celebrated. It’s something that’s expected,” Mix said. “I hope that there is no longer this kind of stigma that women in leadership roles is this one in a million gem. I hope that my boss is a woman, her boss is a woman, and that’s kind of like the norm.”