In Depth

Female Students More Active in Community Service and CAMD, Boys Take on ‘Traditional Leadership Roles’

According to some students and faculty, there are some clubs and organizations at Andover that are primarily dominated by one gender. SLAM has only had two male participants in its history, and only four females have ever been elected as school president. Despite these exceptions, the gender distribution among most Phillips Academy clubs is remarkably even. According to Cynthia Efinger, Director of Student Activities, there is about a 50-50 ratio of the number of male to female club leaders, although she has never done an exact breakdown. “We don’t have any clubs that allocate to a certain gender,” Efinger said. “I won’t allow it.” In 2001, Dean of Admissions Jane Fried studied the role of gender in leadership positions at Andover for her masters thesis at Tufts. She studied 49 students in five established leadership groups: traditional leadership roles (Student Council and The Phillipian), Community Service Coordinators, Community and Multicultural Development [CAMD] leaders, Academic Leaders (students who excelled academically as defined by their teachers) and students who were not defined as leaders. Female students tended to dominate leadership in CAMD clubs and as Community Service Coodinators, while male students dominated the traditional leadership roles. Fried said, “Girls were leading. They just weren’t in traditional leadership positions.” According to Efinger, Marlys Edwards, former Dean of Students, was adamant that Andover did not support gender-based clubs. She identified these clubs as the source of discrepancies in gender distribution. Amnesty International, one of the larger clubs on campus, has an entirely female board. Sophie Fourteau ’10, Events Coordinator for Amnesty International, said that she sees this trend of female participation in other clubs as well. She said, “In all the clubs that I am in, I see more girls at the meetings than boys, and it seems like more girls than boys go to clubs [in general].” SLAM Co-Captain Sam Burwell ’09, one of two boys ever to be in SLAM, said that since the club was created by girls and has cheerleading characteristics, such as outfits and basketball game performances, the idea that it was a “girl” club stuck. Burwell said, “A lot of the steps have very feminine aspects, and that’s something I’m kind of trying to change.” SLAM Co-Captain Stephanie Xu ’09 said that SLAM does not discriminate against male students during auditions. Rather male students “usually, just don’t try out… In general, girls teams and guys teams have different dynamics and sort of do their own thing. With a combined team, it’s different.” Tiffany Li, Co-Vice President of the Philomathean Society, said, “Philo on campus is a mixed [gender] club.” She cited high school debating in general as “a male-dominated activity, but not a sexist activity.” She added, “Ambition in guys gets a positive portrayal…[but] in general, ambition in girls can get twisted into something negative by others.” Dr. Anthony Rotundo, Director of the Brace Center for Gender Studies, wrote in an email to The Phillipian that females are well represented in club leadership positions. He cited student government as a notable exception. Rotundo wrote, “The gender appeal of clubs will never be perfectly uniform…my biggest concern is that, across the range of clubs, both sexes have the opportunity to learn what it’s like to exercise the skills and responsibilities of leadership.” The study by Fried identified that boys preferred positions with public recognition and girls preferred positions where they “make things work.” According to Fried’s study, the clubs in which girls dominated were clubs that only came into existance after coeducation in 1973. Fried said, “[the gender distribution in leadership] is the last holdout.” Fried continued, “You have got to get a critical mass over the fence.” Fried also suggested that peer-to-peer mentorship was important in changing the involvement of girls in traditional leadership roles. While the majority of administrators are female at Andover, Fried said it was more important for female students to take on these leadership roles.