At a university with a female-dominated student body, only two women in more than 30 years have assumed the highest student government position.
Since 1977, GW has elected eight females to the executive office of the Student Association – six executive vice presidents and two presidents. It was not until 1998 that GW elected its first female SA president, Carrie Potter.
SA Sen. Julie Bindelglass, CCAS-U and chair of the Finance Committee, announced Tuesday that she will run for the SA’s top spot this year. She is the only female to announce candidacy this year.
“For me it’s not about male or female, but as one of the few females in our student government, I feel a dual responsibility not only to the Columbian College students but also to a second constituency on campus,” said Bindelglass, a sophomore. “This constituency represents just over half of the student body and is one of many underrepresented constituencies in our student government.” Former SA President Nicole Capp, who in 2007 was the second female elected to the office, said she thinks women at GW find other outlets to bring about change.
“I think females especially don’t see the Student Association as the most effective organ for change,” said Capp, a senior. “So they just find other ways to actually get things done on campus.”
Ashley English, a graduate student working at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said she believes the reason why many women do not run for political office is complex.
“Our social constructions of gender and politics have taught many women and men that politics are a man’s job,” said English.
She added, “As long as we still believe these stereotypes, it might also mean that the student government is filled with men that create a chilly or even hostile environment for female students who attempt to participate.”
English also said female candidates feel like they are being judged for more than just their political beliefs when they run for office.
“College women are fresh out of their teen years and are highly aware of the challenges of being a public figure presents in terms of the scrutiny they will face in terms of their appearance, weight, health, clothing, etc,” English said. “Hillary Clinton’s run for president proved that no matter how serious a woman is as a candidate, people will still focus on and criticize her looks.”
Capp agreed with the complex role of female candidates.
“I think there are more components attached to being a female leader as opposed to a male leader,” Capp said.
She added that female candidates are judged on their looks more so than males.
“A guy would never be accused of looking too sexy in their business attire, but a woman definitely has to worry about that,” Capp said.
Though there have been only a few females in the SA executive branch, SA Sen. Michelle Tanney, CPS-G and chair of the Student Life Committee, said females are a large and powerful part of the SA.
She added that Bindelglass’ position as chair of the Finance Committee is one of the most powerful within the SA.
“In the years I have been a member of the Student Association, females have risen to powerful positions, asserting strong personalities and exhibiting exemplary leadership skills,” Tanney said.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: (February 19, 2009)
Michelle Tanney said the final quotation of the article, not Julie Bindelglass.