Although the number of women graduating from colleges is greater than the number of men graduating nationwide, there is a shortage of women running for executive student government positions, according to studies from the School of Public Affairs at American University.
One study conducted by the school shows a persistent gap between women and men. Up to 63 percent of women never thought about running for political office, whereas only 43 percent of men never thought about it.
Another significant statistic revealed that the percentage of men who thought about running for office many times (20 percent) doubles that of women (10 percent).
But, there are still some female leaders here at Stony Brook University, even though there is still an overall lack of women in student leadership.
“What made me first interested in running for student government was that I did not like the policies and procedures that were in place, and I wanted to make a positive change,” Kathryn Michaud, the treasurer of the Undergraduate Student Government, said.
The research by American University shows self-doubts and lack of confidence are factors that hinder young women in pursuit of political positions.
“I think the reason why we don’t have lots of women in USG is due to general fear and unsureness of what the position will be,” Sarah Twarog, the chief justice of the USG judiciary, said. “Most females are shy away or feel unprepared to take on those positions.”
“From what I have seen, a lot of women don’t seem to take the initiative or have the confidence to take on those positions initially,” Michaud said. “Not as many women are as assertive as men are in those positions, in my experience.”
Parental support and early exposure to politics are other crucial factors that determine whether women run for office.
According to the statistics from American University, parents do not encourage their daughters to pursue a political career as much as they encourage their sons.
Overall, 33 percent of men were encouraged by their fathers to run for office and 34 percent of men were by encouraged their mothers to run for office.
This contrasts with the 23 percent of women who were supported by their fathers and the 23 percent of women who were supported by their mothers to run for office.
Gender stereotypes are another barrier that inhibits women from getting involved in politics. The survey from American University reflects a gender gap in political position. Nine percent of men experience openness towards the position of president—compared with only 3 percent of women.
The survey showed women are more open toward jobs like teaching, nursing and secretarial work.
“Historically, women are less inclined to speak their minds,” Twarog said. “I think that women feel boggled down by this precedency.”
The studies from American University show that stereotypical conceptions force men and women into these gender roles. Men tend to be seen as good leaders, whereas women are construed to be despotic when taking control or power.
“A lot of idea about politics is still behind the times,” Jake Bonnyman, a junior political science major, said. “You have to change the idea of politics or leadership to mold the modern world.”