Few Girls Among Presidential Candidates

Lower girls with an interest in becoming involved in Student Council will soon have the opportunity to learn more about the election process. At a meeting held last week for upcoming presidential candidates, only four of the prospective 25 to 30 students were female. To address this lack of female participation, Alana Rush, Associate Dean of Community Service, and Malin Adams ’09, School President, decided to plan an informational meeting for Lower girls to encourage their involvement in Student Council and other campus clubs. Adams said, “It is always a common trend that very few girls run for the position of School President.” He said, “Girls often feel that the position of School President is a man’s job and, although there are extremely well-qualified girls who would do very well if they entered, they are discouraged to do so.” Adams said he believes this absence is a serious problem “because girls are deciding not to run for a variety of reasons. The stereotypical ‘I don’t think the job is right for me’ is not a true statement.” Ziwe Fumudoh ’10, one of the four Upper females who attended last week’s informational meeting about the presidential election, agreed. Fumudoh said, “I don’t really know who the other leaders of other campus clubs are, but for the Student Council leaderships, it seems primarily male.” Rush suggested a discrepancy between girls in leadership positions for other clubs and for Student Council. “I’ve seen so many strong females in other areas around campus. That’s why I was so surprised to see the lack of female presence in this area of campus leadership [Student Council],” said Rush. Adams said that the meeting for Lower girls stemmed from the presidential process, but added that the meeting’s intent was also to encourage girls to become involved in campus organizations other than Student Council. “If you look at Lowers who are thinking about what their next two years at the school might look like, it’s the ideal time to get involved,” said Rush. Rush added that starting to plan as an Upper would present time constraints. Rush also said that Lowers might be more inclined to take advice from Adams than upperclassmen. She said, “Through his experience, [Adams] can offer guidance to Lowers.” In order to initiate the informational meeting, Rush wrote an email to all PACE instructors asking for the names of “stellar Lower girls” who “show potential for significant campus and community leadership.” Linda Griffith, Dean of CAMD and Instructor in PACE, said she believed the meeting was a good idea because it actively encouraged girls to become involved with Student Council. She said, “I think too often we’re reactive. Proactively reaching out to people is essential.” “With a lot of young people, in order to dream something, they have to see it. The earlier they can see themselves in one of these roles, the more likely this dream is to occur,” Griffith continued. Michaeljit Sandhu ’09, Senior Instructor in PACE, said that reaching out to Lower girls was a good idea. He said, “I think Lower year is crucial in determining the direction of your time at Andover, so it seems to be the ideal year to help students chart their course for the future. Moreover, it gives girls enough time to get interested and passionate about specific leadership positions and also to gain relative experience.” Sandhu described a “stellar” girl as someone who “would be passionate about creating change and willing to sacrifice for others.” He continued, “I think girls are sometimes intimidated out of positions because of overwhelming numbers of boys who attempt to gain positions, so a stellar Lower girl would be someone who likes bad odds and wants to win.” Griffith said that she believed the word “stellar” was somewhat misrepresentative. She believed that any girl who shows a genuine interest and desire should be encouraged to participate in Student Council. The lack of girls in Student Council raises a larger question of whether this absence of female leadership pervades other campus organizations. Rush said, “I certainly don’t think there is a lack of female leadership around campus.” Deidra Willis ’09, Senior Instructor in PACE, said, “Today, you hear a lot about a ‘strong woman’ or one that’s too dominating and ‘not feminine enough.’ I think those issues and viewpoints can reach down to the high school level, even at Andover.”