Few women come forward for WLUSU roles

By: Bree Rody-Mantha, Lead Reporter

At a university boasting a female student population of 61 per cent, that only one candidate in the upcoming Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU) election is female has left some scratching their heads.

The low turnout of female candidates is actually nothing out of the ordinary for WLUSU. In the past decade, females have not once outnumbered males on the board. In fact, men have often doubled and tripled the number of women.

Jenny Solda, a third-year business major, is the lone woman in the 19-person race for board of directors.

Solda, having already spent a year on the board, said she does not see her gender as an issue in her position, although she added that other females may find the seemingly male-dominated organization daunting.

“I think it might be a little intimidating if you’re a girl looking onto the board and there are only one or two girls already on it,” Solda told the Cord, “But once you get to know your fellow directors, it doesn’t become a contributing factor.”

Women and gender studies professor Helen Ramirez believes that a barrier does exist and that women in student politics need to recognize it.

Ramirez expressed that females may be hesitant to be vocal or ambitious in a business setting for fear of being seen as vicious. “In any leadership role… they’re seen as bitches, as arrogant, aggressive, and too ambitions … they’re not ‘good women.’”

Above all, Ramirez feels that women are socialized from a young age to not strive for power. “There is a ‘Laurier look’ for young women,” Ramirez remarked, noting that females need to work hard to not be marginalized in a community as small and tight-knit Laurier. “It becomes very difficult to do something different … you’re disciplined for not being like everybody else.”

Politics aside, women do play a significant role in the Laurier community. All WLUSU service coordinators and VPs as well as many members of the university administration are women.

Christinia Landry, the current president of the WLU Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), said that from her own personal experience, undergraduate females may feel afraid to fail when it comes to politics.

“I think that women tend to not put themselves out as much as men,” Landry said. “A fear of failure is very much relevant in young women today.”

Landry, who is currently writing her dissertation on feminism, admits that she would not have had the courage to run during her undergraduate years. “I was very unsure of myself,” she said. At the graduate level, however, there is more balance. “Our executive is evenly weighted,” she said of the male-to-female balance within the GSA.

Ginny Dybenko, the dean of the school of business and economics, also believes that a lack of self-assurance is a contributing factor to the lack of women pursuing such paths. Dybenko stated that women naturally make good leaders. “We have the creativity… vision is not the issue and we are natural communicators,” she said. “It’s not the ability to lead that’s lacking.”

Dybenko, who has over thirty years of experience in a male-dominated business world, said that the key to integrating more females into business and politics is mentorship.

“I task every single woman out there to take on a protégé,” she advised. “Give them a little advice from the experience you had. I do a lot of mentoring, but every time I mentor, I say, ‘the price you have to pay is, go out and mentor someone else.’”

Female directors on the board:

2009-10: 5/14**

2008-09: 5/14

2007-08: 6/14

2006-07: 3/11*

2005-06: 3/13*

2004-05: 5/14*

2003-04: 3/13*

  • Female Chair , Vice-Chair, or VP: University Affairs

** Female President and CEO, for the first year since 1992-93

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