Program pushes women to become campus leaders

Though females make up 55 percent of students, they hold just 16 percent of Student Association positions – a gap Executive Vice President Abby Bergren set out to change this election season.

She brought the nationwide, female leadership program “Elect Her: Campus Women Win” to campus in January in an effort to empower female campus leaders to vie for the SA’s top seats.

Just 10 women have served as president or executive vice president of the Student Association since its formation in 1977.

“If we want to be well represented and have a say in student issues than we have to get the representation we need,” Bergren said.

Junior Julia Susuni, the first female in four years to run for the SA’s top spot, said the program, which featured female speakers like a top university administrator and a local state senator, paid off. The SA presidential candidate said the workshop taught her how to present herself as a strong, professional woman both in person and online, with a focus on how to deliver elevator pitches and effectively utilize the internet and social media.

“I have learned how to present myself in a way that shows people who I am,” Susuni said. “I want people so see me as someone they can trust, and know that I genuinely care about what they have to say and what their concerns are.”

If Susuni is elected this week, she will be the fourth female to become SA president.

Yet Susuni said she doesn’t want people to think of her as “the female candidate.” She said she wants people to see her on “an equal playing field.”

Sen. Alicia Rose, ESIA-U, is one of five elected female SA senators and was an active participant in the planning and advertising of the Elect Her program. She said it “reinforced the need for female leaders,” calling it a pathway for leadership later in life.

She said more females on the SA “bring a healthy dialogue that makes our discussions more productive” because she said the more even the ratio of males to females, the better senators understand the real issues on campus.

“In order to be representative of the unique interests of all student on campus, we should have women serving in leadership positions,” Rose said.

Rose, who is the chair of the academic affairs committee, added that last year during her campaign she was encouraged that many people wanted to see a more diverse student government on campus.

Bergren said that the need for more females to hold leadership roles at the University stem farther than just GW, because being involved in campus leadership tends to lead to leadership positions later in life.

“Women are more likely to pursue leadership and elected office later in life and the goal is to start early,” Bergren said. “If we want a voice at the table women need the confidence and the skills to step up to the table and run.”

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