“How can we have gender neutral toilets but no female SO?”: Female candidate speaks out

There have been calls for a 50/50 quota

As the results came through on Friday night, I was obviously upset for not gaining a position myself but mainly for the fact there was no female representation for the first time in 35 years. Thankfully, we do still have representation of international students and BME.

We live in a world where politics, the media and high profile jobs are still male dominated. Even though we have a guild that has gender neutral toilets, the NUS elected their first ever black Muslim woman president and inclusion projects for LGBT+ to feel more comfortable getting involved in our sports teams, I feel we live in a cosmos bubble hiding the fact that in the world outside we are dealing with Trump, Ireland’s abortion laws and trans-phobia.

3/4 of next year’s Officer team. Photo: Alice Pearce

Our current Guild presidents represent international, LGBT+, BME, male and female students. However, there is still talk that there should be a 50/50 quota instilled to better represent the 58% female student majority. Beth Meadows, who missed out by 26 votes said, “For me a quota would just ensure equality as the current system doesn’t reflect the Guild’s open-mindedness and inclusivity”. Fem Soc have also stated they “hope this will be the wake up call the guild needs to implement a quota for next year, the meritocracy argument just doesn’t cut it”.

Our current presidents, representing LGBT+, international, BME, male and female students

It saddens me that there is even the need for motion of a quota for women in office as it seems absurd that it should be necessary, but unfortunately it seems this is the only way the Guild can guarantee female representation. The motion for a quota in office is now being led by Yasmin Gasimova, current Vice President, with support from several affecting change societies. Yasmin stated she is “currently working on implementing a representative structure in the Guild for liberation groups, and also looking into our democratic processes that would enable a fairer representation of women and other marginalised groups. The candidates and students from liberation groups will have an opportunity to feed back to us about their experiences and expectations so watch this space'”.

Many people argue that 50/50 quotas are unfair and discriminatory towards men and they go against general democratic principles of finding the ‘best person’ for the job. Howeve, those who believe university union presidents should be awarded on merit alone fail to understand that there are women who may not feel capable or confident enough to put themselves forward. It would get women more involved in decision making processes and empowers female students. Particular benefits have been seen in Germany, France, Italy and many Nordic countries after increasing the representation of women on boards. A quota wouldn’t completely undermine the whole democratic process as officials still have to be elected, but with next year’s outcome the current system has undermined the whole inclusion of representatives for all kinds of people at Liverpool – including women and minority students. Siobhan Griffiths, NUS Delegate for Women’s, LGBT+, Disabled and National Conferences and a female candidate in the recent election, said she feels “more determined than ever to keep events and campaigns going and the elected officers will do everything they can”.

The candidates 

As a female candidate I am privileged to have the rights we have and of course the freedom to actually run in a political campaign. However, 58% of students are female and 50% of candidates were strong women. Yet there is no female president, for the first time in 35 years! We, as female candidates have not lost. I hope we have paved the way and inspired potential future candidates to get involved. I’m sure the reaction caused over the past few days will inspire the elected presidents to support political issues of women and urge them to continue to get involved in the campaigns and run in years to come.

Joe Smart, President of the Mental Health Society said, “I expect that some of the elected officers will respond to the backlash and say that they will represent women but it is ridiculous that we require 4 men to represent women when what is need is to cut out the middle man and just have women elected…The 4 male officers may care and they may listen and they may try to make change, but I struggle to believe it’ll be their priority and they will never fully understand the importance of it.”

I hope the team will continue to consider Women’s Student Welfare at the Guild and university, but let’s be honest, no one can understand the impacts of decisions affecting women, quite like a woman.