The recent Executive Committee and Student Judicial Council elections highlight the lack of women in student government at Washington and Lee. The EC and SJC have been historically male-dominant and have had only a few women. Why is it that so few undergraduate women have been on the EC and SJC? What is preventing them from running? Why are men winning over women in these elections?
According to John Ehrhardt, Chair of the Voting Regulations Board, there have been at most two undergraduate women serving on the EC each year, out of 13 members, for the past few years. The SJC has not had any women on for the past three years.
Some explanations for this problem
The reasoning behind this phenomenon is difficult to pinpoint. Current class of 2013 representative Jack Apgar offered one possible explanation for the lack of women, “Women may be more hesitant in running for a position in an already male-dominated organization.”
Another reason could be the male-dominant social structure at W&L. Because much of the social life is controlled by the fraternities, it may be difficult for the women to put themselves out there.
For current class of 2013 representative Steele Burrow, the reason seems to be bigger than Washington and Lee. He said the issue may be traced back to the American political culture.
“I think the EC and the SJC is like a microcosm of a broader political issue. The majority of Congress is men, not women, and that culture can be seen as reflected onto us as well,” Burrow said.
Head Recruitment Counselor and Panhellenic Council member Alexandra Frazier said she thinks the relationship between women and student government is a “vicious cycle.”
“There are no women on the committees, which makes it difficult for other women to consider running, and when they don’t run, there’s no women on the committees,” Frazier said.
Sophomore EC representative candidate Rachel Warrick said there is need for an example for female leadership on the EC and the SJC. By having someone on the committee actively representing the W&L women, other women could be motivated to run for positions in the future, Warrick said.
SJC Junior Justice candidate Mary Elizabeth Bush said it is strange to see women underrepresented on the EC and the SJC because women hold leadership positions in many other organizations.
“I have plenty of friends who have leadership positions on service organizations and Mock Convention,” Bush said. “Spreading the word about the elections is important. I think the girls need more encouragement to consider running for a position.”