Stony Brook University’s Graduate Student Organization has been acknowledged by the State University of New York for its efforts in encouraging female leadership. Stony Brook’s GSO, overseen by second-year president Evgenia Sidorova, was awarded by the SUNY Student Assembly for Commitment to Female Leadership and Empowerment on April 11.
“We wanted to inspire girls at the graduate level,” Sidorova said.
Stony Brook is not the only SUNY school with a woman holding an executive position in its graduate student organization. The GSOs of SUNY’s four flagship universities—Binghamton, Buffalo, Albany and Stony Brook—are all run by a female president. These women inspired Lori Mould, the president of SUNY’s Student Assembly, Sidorova said.
“Lori saw our activities the past two years and wanted to recognize that,” Sidorova stated. “We set up different awards for females and highlight it on social media to get the information out. We have clubs and student leaders that try to inspire as well.”
Sidorova and GSO strive to empower young women to hold executive positions and promote diversity within the organization.
“We wanted to make it diverse with people from different backgrounds and genders,” Sidorova said. “Over the last four to five years we have become very, very diverse with more females involved. We have added international and domestic students, males and females. This year I am the only international and the only female on the executive committee, but that is probably an exception.”
Sidorova is originally from Russia, but currently resides on Long Island. She is a second-year PhD candidate studying political science. She has made it a personal priority to involve graduate students in extracurricular activities. Her dedication to University Café, an on-campus eatery that hosts entertainment programs for students, alumni and faculty, encourages those involved to enhance their social lives at Stony Brook and helps to build a comfortable environment.
“The University Café has been a great movement as we have entertainment programs all the time,” she mentioned. “This isn’t just a commuter school, it’s a community.”
Sidorova recognized the challenges that graduate students face, who often have to balance a family with work and school. She noted that it’s particularly difficult for women to find this balance and also be a successful leader.
“Balancing family and a leadership career while also being the only woman in the room is a challenge,” Sidorova relayed.
“Having a different role at home than in the organization is a challenge,” she continued. “Do you wear a different mask?”
Sidorova said Stony Brook’s GSO hopes to break traditional views of women and help young women move beyond stereotypes by being a strong, capable leader.
“I think that women are perceived as a weaker sex and that’s how they are treated,” Sidorova said. “If women are assertive they are considered to be rude or angry, too pushy or bossy. But if a man does this he is seen as a good leader. It’s very hard to be taken seriously.”
Sidorova knows these adversities from first-hand experiences. The entire GSO committee, except for Sidorova, is made up of men, and she is one of just a few female GSO presidents over the past 40 years.
“I think that women are afraid they won’t be taken seriously by their advisers and that they will be bullied,” Sidorova said. “It’s also challenging because they are in graduate school and often have a family. I try to encourage them and open their eyes.”
Despite her upcoming retirement from student government in two months, Sidorova said she hopes to continue inspiring women in her personal life.
“I think females already have all the qualities to be a leader,” she said. “To be a good leader you have to be empathetic. You have to be kind. Women have a lot of that. For women to be good leaders I think they need more encouragement from faculty and advisers.”
Regardless of SUNY’s recognition of Stony Brook, Sidorova argues that women need more encouragement and more inclusion in executive positions.
“We could do more, though,” Sidorova said. “I think everyone should be doing more to spread awareness.”