Tag Archives: student movement

Come and join the conversation about women’s leadership at Lancaster University?

Did you know that only 5 LUSU Presidents have been women? Or that only 12 out of 42 full-time officers since 2007 have been women, and 6 of those in the last 2 years.

LUSU isn’t the only democratic organisation that struggles to recognise & fully utilise the leadership talents of women. We see this weakness replicated in parliaments across the world, and recent research from the United States demonstrates women’s experiences at university shape their future engagement in political and civic organisations.

A group of women and men have started a conversation about the barriers to women running for election on campus, and what we can do to lift those barriers. If you would like to join this conversation, we would like to invite you to join us on at 7:30pm on Tuesday 4th February in Bowland Lecture Theatre 2 for a screening of the film Miss Representation followed by a purposeful conversation.

Miss Representation is an award winning film which draws on academic research, personal stories and striking examples to highlight how the media’s portrayal of women contributes to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence.

For more details for the event and to rsvp.


Talking women’s leadership in the student movement

Yesterday I had the privilege of joining 130 other women at NUS UK’s first women in leadership conference. It was amazing. I’m still processing it, but already I can see the difference it is going to make personally and to both my professional hats – research student and feminist activist.

Personally, as I’ve said before, it is always refreshing to spend time with other women committed to changing the world.

As a doctoral student my research is about young women’s leadership in social change organisations and so I’m invigorated by the stories of action and the possibilities for collaboration. I’m looking forward to further conversations with the NUS UK to see how I can help.

And as a activist who started the week wondering whether I had the balance right between practice and reflection, it was the icing on the cake in a week where there has been rewarding movement on a bunch of projects I’ve been chipping away at over the last year.

So having started the week on a bit of a low, I end on quite a high. Excited to enact the plans made on the way home with Emily and Rachel, the female full-time officers of at Lancaster University Student Union, and ever more determined to see my research work find practical outlets.

And, in the spirit of Thanksgiving – I note my thanks to the conference organisers, the inspiring speakers and talented facilitators; my student union for giving me the opportunity to go to the conference; and the amazing student and women’s movements who have been, and remain such an important part of my life, and do such inspiring work.

Merit vs fair representation is a false dichotomy

Today, NUS UK is debating a motion to introduce quotas for women on student union delegations to national conference, and within a number of the bodies elected by the national conference. There is information from the pro-campaign here http://fairrepresentationnus.wordpress.com/why-gender-balancing/

I’m not at the conference, but delegates I know opposing the motion seem to be framing it as ‘merit’ vs ‘equality’. I’ve just written a long post on Facebook about why I don’t think measures to address women’s under-representation are anti-meritocratic, and as I’ve now written versions of it a couple of time, I thought I’d post a version here for more general consumption.


Framing the debate on the introduction of quotas for women within NUS UK as ‘merit’ versus ‘equality’ is a false dichotomy.

A ballot elects the nominated candidate who receives the most votes. On the other hand, merit selection processes should consider the knowledge and skills of a candidate against those required by the position. However, research shows that even merit processes often fall short of being gender and race blind.

I’m confident our campus student population includes a number of women who have the skills and knowledge to be excellent members of the voting delegation. So, the complete absence of women from the voting delegation either this year, or last, isn’t a question of merit. It’s about something far more complicated – the role and status of women in our communities.

A recent (US) study identified five factors that contribute to college age women being less likely than college age men to even think about running for public office.

  1. Young men are more likely than young women to be socialized by their parents to think about politics as a career path.
  2. From their school experiences to their peer associations to their media habits, young women tend to be exposed to less political information and discussion than do young men.
  3. Young men are more likely than young women to have played organized sports and care about winning.
  4. Young women are less likely than young men to receive encouragement to run for office—from anyone.
  5. Young women are less likely than young men to think they will be qualified to run for office, even once they are established in their careers.

Thanks to the Women & Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School for sharing the research. There is a short write up of the research here http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2013/04/02/where-are-the-women-candidates/ (and the five factors summary is the Boston Magazine’s) and the short article links through to the full study.

NUS UK introducing quotas for women’s will not address all of the complicated issues that underpin women’s under-representation in civil society. However, it will create a powerful pull factor to keep student unions focused on ensuring that qualified women candidates run, because student union’s will not want to send delegates to NUS who lack the skills to represent their students. 

Yes, there are some student unions, including ours, who might do work on this issue without the fair representation measure, but student unions are busy places and the fair representation requirement will help to ensure that addressing women’s under-representation in student unions remains a focus of our work.