Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

After reading both Letters to the Editor in last week’s Phillipian and the ensuing comments on The Phillipian Online, as well as watching a Philomathean Society video all concerning the heated topic of gender in this year’s Co-Presidential election, I have decided to contribute my two cents.

Statistically speaking, at a school that admits similarly qualified candidates evenly across gender lines, it follows that there should be an equal number of competent female leaders and competent male leaders in each class. The question then becomes, why aren’t more qualified females being elected to the top leadership position on campus?

One reason that is often cited is the historically low participation rates of females in the presidential campaigning process. Looking solely at the candidate numbers that I have gathered from past Phillipian articles, five out of the initial 18 candidates were female in 2009, two out of the initial 20 candidates in 2010, three out of the 12 candidates that made it to the second round of voting in 2011, three out of the initial 12 in 2012 and two out of the initial 14 in 2013.

Obviously it isn’t realistic to expect an equal number of boys and girls to run every year, but why are the numbers so uneven? Some reasons that have been suggested include: without strong female leaders to look up to in the position, girls are simply not inspired to run; because most students have not experienced a female in the presidency, there is an impression that girls cannot win and therefore there is no point for a girl to run; and the position itself is viewed as a male’s role and the election process greatly favors males. These positions are all encapsulated in the one belief: females are structurally disenfranchised from running for the top school office.

In a community that prides itself in equal opportunity for all of its students, it is a failure at an institutional level for a student or a group of students to be marginalized. What then can be the solution to this de facto disqualification, and from there, the lack of females holding the top leadership? A difficult question indeed, and my opinion is that this problem of imbalance cannot be completely solved without larger cultural changes, not only in our school, but also in society.

I believe that going forward the Co-Presidential model is a step in the right direction since it offers more variety in the position, whether in gender, race, socio-economic status, etc. Regarding gender, in this year’s campaign alone we saw that half of the initial candidate pairs included a female on the ticket. At the time of this writing, five of the six remaining pairs are mixed-gender.

Admittedly, the problem is not yet solved. A single high school election will not and cannot solve all the issues associated with gender imbalance. But my belief is that we are moving forward. In the past few years, which candidate was elected was heavily reliant on who spoke best or was the funniest. What the specific model of Co-Presidents currently in place offers is a chance to restructure the role and the election so that it emphasizes many different aspects of leadership. Teamwork, dedication and ideas have become more central parts of the campaign. By removing the role as a Commencement speaker and instituting a debate in place of final speeches, we are effectively stepping away from the previous glamour and focus of the president as merely a public speaker. It can be beneficial for candidates to be funny and/or approachable, but it is not the only criteria; similarly diversity in gender can be good, but it is not the only aspect that is important. We must consider everything that each candidate pair brings to the table.

In my experience I have found that any discussion about gender inequality at PA often leads to polarization of parties, negativity between opposing opinions and an “Us Versus Them” mentality. However, for these conversations to be fruitful, they should be taken seriously and conducted respectfully. I urge you, Andover, to continue to participate in these discussions and not be afraid to confront issues of such magnitude in the future.

Looking forward,

Hemang Kaul ’13

School President