It’s widely known that the University of Roehampton has a largely female population – 75% in fact, if you love a good statistic – however,
It’s widely known that the University of Roehampton has a largely female population – 75% in fact, if you love a good statistic – however, there has only been one female Students’ Union President in the University’s history, a statistic that often astounds people.
Surely you would think that a University with such a high percentage of female students would have produced many more female SU Presidents? Is it a case of a lack of knowledge surrounding the position or maybe it’s to do with society’s preconceptions that positions of power are normally held by men? These are questions that the National Union of Students (NUS) have also been asking and to find out more, they interviewed Shami Chakrabarti, the Director of Liberty, to discuss what could be done to encourage more women to seek leadership positions.
Don’t hold back
During the interview, when asked if she had ever felt discouraged from going for various leadership roles, Ms Chakrabarti mentioned that she never felt “actively held back” and has experienced “far more kindness and encouragement and wisdom and advice and solidarity than [she’s] received of the less favourable treatment.”
She does go on to mention that “confidence can sometimes be an issue” but that if the right measures are taken to help those struggling with these barriers then there’s no reason why females shouldn’t put themselves forward for positions of power. She notes that “sometimes it’s just about the women who are already in a leadership position just actively, individually recruiting their younger friends and colleagues” and actually approaching individuals and “inviting them to come forward.”
This is definitely something that we are encouraging at Roehampton. The student elections are only a couple of months away and it’s definitely time to start thinking about the various roles available and whether yourself, or someone you know would be a suitable candidate.
Toni Pearce, the female President of the NUS has also spoken out regarding this issue. Within her blog post, entitled “Women In Leadership” she highlights the struggles and misconceptions that she has fought with while in this position. She has also received advice that she should display more male characteristics when addressing people in order to be perceived as confident; however, she goes on to say that she wants women to be “exactly who they are.”
There shouldn’t be this pressure put on women to become manlier in order to succeed and be taken seriously. The NUS is launching mentoring for women in the movement this year and Toni wants to see women across the political spectrum being supported. “Black, LGBT, disabled women, getting support from women they can relate to. Jewish, Muslim and Christian women all being supported to tear down the barriers that are put in their way, not to tear apart their identity. Be the leaders they want to, and absolutely can be.”
With this in mind Roehampton, start thinking about the impact that you could make to this University and speak to the people currently elected into the Students’ Union. It doesn’t matter if you’re having doubts, someone will be there to give you some friendly encouragement, whatever it is you want to do.
Ladies, we know sometimes it can be hard to try and make waves in a predominantly male pond but we’re all here to make Roehampton the best it can be and with your help, it’s sure to be brilliant.
Written by Kate Griffiths, University of Roehampton