Why are women so under represented in SUSU?
There wasn’t a single female Union presidential candidate
Today is International Women’s Day and I have been reflecting on the SUSU Presidential candidates who ran this year, and how racially diverse they are. However what seems to be a problem is a lack of female candidates. As a politics student, I understand the level of male dominance within my area of study and see how this is reflected in all areas of life.
As we celebrate the achievements of women today, we must address one area in which there still remains a lack of representation for women. Now before you start to think that I’m a feminazi and man hater, 97% of females say they believe the political culture to be sexist, and that the lack of high profile female politicians demonstrates the gender divide in Parliament. Ultimately, this significantly damages the ego of many aspirational female politicians.
In 2015, the Conservative party boasted 68 female MP’s, a stark contrast from the 13 female MP’s in 1997. After David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle in May 2015, the 1/3 of Cameron’s cabinet which were female, were dubbed “Dave’s darlings”, a patronising and almost comedic approach to the promotion of female ministers. Why should we dub successful women in the media as “darlings”? These women have worked their way through the male dominated, rich, and ruthlessly outdated political establishment and should be celebrated, not patronised in the media.
We have to consider how this approach affects young women and how they perceive their participation in politics. I hesitated towards a career in politics after I spent time shadowing my local MP. The number of patronising comments that I experienced whilst at this placement outraged me, ranging from “what a lovely little thing” to “she’s too lovely to be here”. Granted, these comments were nice, but still remained patronising and there was no need to comment on me personally, this put me off politics for a while after the presence of a young female evoked those reactions from the MP’s that I met.
However, after following the campaigns for Union President, I have realised how racially diverse the candidates are compared to Westminster, which is brilliant. Yet, the lack of female candidates that ran for this year’s full time Sabb positions distresses me and many other people that I know. The most memorable moments of this election were from the Presidential candidates, in particular the effective catchphrases, “Shout with Sam” and “Hovden for President”. Whilst naturally we will pay attention to these candidates the most, there was a higher number of men running this year and only one woman won her election, Flora Noble.
The lack of female candidates and even more so the lack of diversity in the winners makes me question how I would be received if I were to run for Union President, and causes me to question if seeing women being heckled in PMQ’s by rich, white MP’s puts off other women running for significant positions. I don’t want to live in a whitewashed world, in which we are bound by the status quo; I want to live in a world in which women aren’t afraid of being heckled or overlooked in politics or any other aspects of life. We shouldn’t be bound by age, sex or race within politics, its all about representation of the people.
So this year for International Women’s Day, how can you individually make a change to further support women in your life? What about those around the world too? We shouldn’t just think about the women in western countries who are struggling for representation, but those in third world countries, who are bound by convention, battling for their voices to be heard against the dominating culture the live in. Imagine a world where Female genital mutilation, child marriage, a lack of education, no protection from HIV/AIDS and physical violence were gone. These are just some of the issues in which women who have no voice or representation deal with on a daily basis. Help those who are struggling, speak out and act.
This is my hope and dream for what the future could be like. Who knows, with the coming of a new year and another set of Student Union elections, we may see further levels of diversity within student politics, and hopefully we can start to build a world where women have just as big a voice as men.