By: Natasha Sandhu and Naomi Pullen
We are writing this letter in response to “Why Aren’t Women Running?” by Ana Qarri from January 20, 2015, to clarify what the MSU Wants YOU initiative is.
At the beginning of this initiative, we discussed at length the nature of our goals and how we would be able to measure our progress and success. We decided to focus on long-term change and feasibility recognizing that systemic problems are not easily addressed in the short term. Our success would need to be measured gradually, in terms of both Presidential elections and SRA General Elections, another body within which women are under-represented. Although we hope to see an increased presence of female candidates, we realized this is just one metric of success on a deeper issue.
We too find it hard to believe that in an organization with almost equal numbers of men and women, five men and no women wanted to be MSU President. But our working group realized that for more women to get involved in student governance, as Mary Koziol said, there needs to be a culture shift to make them feel confident enough to run.
Our group has been trying to determine how best to create an atmosphere of support and empowerment, and to understand what the current barriers to that are. We are trying to push for this shift in our culture to one where a man and a woman interested in a position of MSU governance are equally likely to decide to run for that position – and we are not going to decide that we failed because we didn’t complete that shift in one term.
So we took a multi-pronged approach to this issue. Encouragement happens on a one-to-one basis in trusted spaces. Our group successfully encouraged BOD members to reach out to students they thought would be a good fit for various leadership roles. While it is impossible to point to those conversations as evidence, we can confidently say that they are happening. We also made sure our campaign was not only evidence-based but something current student leaders would support. We met with many women on the SRA and gained a better insight in how to go about engaging women without tokenizing them, hence our name “the MSU wants you”.
The conversation on this campus about women’s representation in our student government is incredibly encouraging. It shows that students are paying attention to the way our student population is empowered and represented. We hope you will join us in creating a campaign that successfully engages all students in student government regardless of their gender or background. Together, we can reach parity.