Women’s Forum discusses Leadership

Women’s Forum hosted Jane Fried, Dean of Admissions on Tuesday to present her findings on women’s leadership roles on campus. Micere Johnson ’10, co-head of Women’s Forum, said “Dean Fried Volunteered to give her presentation during Women’s Forum. She has a Master’s [degree] with specific focus on this topic.” With much activity on the topic of gender relations in leadership, Fried elected to pilot an independent study. Fried said, “During the 2000-2001 year, the student council elected to have leadership positions have both a male and female representative. So, the issue of female representation in leadership positions was considered a very ‘hot’ issue at thetime.” The 2001-2002 student council voted down the movement the following year. “In 2001, I took a survey of 50 seniors in order to gain both qualitative and quantitative knowledge on the topic” said, Fried. “Having read all the admission files since 1991 and noticed that there are as many girls in elected positions in middle school as there are boys, I wanted to know why girls did not seek elected positions at Andover” Fried said. Fried’s research showed that girls held 56% of all leadership positions on campus. “There was still the feeling that most leadership positions on campus were held by males,” said Fried. “The key to the discrepancy in the actual numbers of female versus male leaders is that most people focus only “traditional” leadership positions such as Student Council and do not think to include leadership in community service or CAMD or other areas” she said. Fried distinguished between traditional elected positions and merit positions. According to Fried, students do not need a particular skill base or experience to be elected, while students must develop skills to be selected for merit positions. “In elected leadership, people look for visual and audible skills, while in merit leadership people look for those who have succeeded in their field over time,” said Fried. “Boys dominate the [traditional positions] and girls the merit based positions,” said Fried. Fried said that merit based positions focus on enacting changes, while elected positions are about holding the position. Fried said that students in the survey mostly defined leadership in the traditional sense of the word. According to Fried, girls tend to hold merit positions. “Once girls come to campus they discover there are many different kinds of leadership positions available. Girls come in and methodically develop portfolios by getting involved with programs and groups that make a difference in the community. They want to know that their skills and experience will count in their election for a leadership position,” she said. “Girls like to conceive that making a difference is measurable. Girls also want to be able to see the changes they are making.” Fried continued.. Fried’s research also covered the students’ presidential campaigns. “Significant differences were found in how boys and girls campaigned. Boys worked nightly with dorm mates to make posters, plan speeches and try out jokes. Girls did not want to ask their friends to take time away from studying to help them with a campaign,” she said. “Boys often have not done the work for a merit position, so they will make a speech in order to gain leadership instead of over time creating a portfolio, like many girls do.” said Fried. According to Fried, “Girls who are very involved would have to give up a lot to become school president. Also, girls find the campaign process to be very challenging personally.” Presidential Candidate Kate Wiener ’11 attended the lecture. She said, “Many women don’t run because they don’t think they can win. They might be scared to go for a position that is so public.” Presidential Candidate E.J. Ejiogu’11 said, “I believe girls don’t run for student body positions because they are afraid to put themselves out to the entire school and be judged.” Fried advised the candidates to what voters are looking for. “Girls want to see people who can make a quantitative effect on the community. Making a platform that resonates with constituents is very important.” “You to be yourself when you are up [in front of lots of people]. If you are comfortable being funny, you need to be engaging. [Speeches and presentations] have to be able to drawn people in, and provide them with something memorable,” she continued. Ejiogu said, “I enjoyed Dean Fried’s presentation. Her research was extensive and interesting. I definitely agree that boys and girls perceive leadership in different ways.” She continued, “I do think that girls innately want to make a tangible change that will positively benefit the community whereas boys would rather want to get up at the podium and entertain. These accounts of students from 2001 paralleled comments I have heard from students today.” Presidential Candidate Jackie Lender ’11 said, “Hopefully, if one of us did win she would be looked as a president first, and a female second. That being said, we need to show the school that a girl can do it.” Ejiogu agreed, “Gender is just another variable that if anything, enhances my perspective and experiences.”