This upcoming year will see all top four student government positions filled by women. Many may be surprised to learn that this is the first time this has happened in UConn’s history. While UConn women are very active in other leadership and volunteering roles on campus, they historically have not been represented in the very top level of student government.
According to a report by Schae Beaudoin of the Daily Campus, the position of USG president and comptroller was held by a woman five times each since 2000. This roughly equates to there being one woman in the position for every two men. With Irma Valverde as USG President, Lysette Johnson as USG Vice President, Seeyashree Sodani as Comptroller and Christine Savino as undergraduate representative on the Board of Trustees, we may expect to see a change in this trend and a normalization of women in these roels. Whether or not you voted for these specific candidates, this is something to look forward to.
There are a number of reasons why women may be less likely to be represented in student government, which can be related back to why women are underrepresented in real-world politics, other professions and positions of power. This relationship is exactly why this increase at UConn is so important; not only does it give women more of a say of what happens at UConn and control of direction, but is has a carry-over effect for when women at UConn and other colleges graduate and pursue other endeavors.
Research shows a major reason women are underrepresented in politics is the fact that they are less likely than men to show political ambition and run for office in the first place. Women may internalize negative views on women in leadership, resulting in being more fearful, less confident, and risk-averse. It is a gender socialization that takes place over the course of many years, and reaches its peak in college. According to a study by Richard Fox and Jennifer Lawless, at age 13, men and women show similar rates of political ambition; yet the gap increases over time and at age 30, approximately 55 percent of men say they would consider running for office, compared to under 30 percent of women who do.
Leadership positions at the campus level provide experience for women that increases their confidence in the long run. It is certain that these elections will inspire more UConn women to get involved on campus, and beyond.