Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Monday, December 10, 2018

Opinion: Champion women who exist in male-dominated spaces

Even at AU, women represent untapped potential for change and positive impact

Opinion: Champion women who exist in male-dominated spaces

At the University, there are a multitude of clubs and activities for students to get involved in. Based on the AU Class of 2022 numbers, the class demographics show that 65 percent are females and 35 percent are males. Even though women make up most of the student population, we still see several male-dominated clubs and activities at AU. Residence Hall Association (RHA) and Student Government are prime examples of this skewed gender ratio. As we see more males being elected to Student Government and RHA positions, we should be asking ourselves why this gender disparity happens.

Throughout high school, I participated in speech and debate. I took it upon myself to get involved with one of the most challenging events, extemporaneous speaking. Extemporaneous speaking, extemp for short, was an intellectually challenging event where you have 30 minutes to prepare a cohesive speech answering a question pertinent to the world today. For this event, one must be politically up to date and able to quickly formulate ideas.

After my first couple tournaments, I noticed I was one of few girls on the circuit. There would be many times where I was in a room full of just boys. I noticed that those who qualified for finals were all men. But being the minority in such clubs didn’t stop in high school.

We should encourage women to participate in such clubs and events. We should offer other females bouts of encouragement and support their pursuits in whatever field they wish. They should not be swayed by overwhelmingly male populations in clubs they wish to attend. This trend can grow into something more deep-rooted and serious. This trend can carry over into careers, which is where it becomes more dangerous.

If a young female student is discouraged from running for RHA council, this will deter her from running for president in the future. The idea of women in politics is an example of a subject that is still not accepted by all members of society. While the world’s top companies are still mostly run by men, a Peterson Institute survey of almost 22,000 firms from 91 countries tells us that “women in corporate leadership positions can contribute to and advance a firm’s performance.”

Why should we set the precedent now? I remember the joy of seeing another girl in one of my extemp rounds. Women are inspired by women. The 2015 KPMG Women’s Leadership study concluded that 86 percent of women see possibility of gaining a leadership position and feel it is more attainable when they see more women in these positions.

What does this look like in practice for AU students? Champion girls who participate in a mostly male-dominated activity. Understand their bravery for setting precedents for women in the future.

Based on my experience being one of the few female extempers, I understand how it feels. Women interested in running for RHA council or Student Government should undoubtedly do so. It is time we start deconstructing these skewed beliefs and support those around us who are discouraged to seize opportunities. They can forge real change in unique ways, but we will never find out how until we see these people in such clubs and places of power.

Aishwarya Rajapur is a freshman in the Kogod School of Business. They are an outside contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff.

opinion@theeagleonline.com


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