The Student’s Union has launched a poster campaign to encourage more women to run in the upcoming SU elections.
The campaign, called “UASU Got This” contains a collection of 10 posters branded with phrases encouraging students to run for office, and features one male and four female student leaders in a classic Rosy the Riveter pose. Posters will be up around campus until the election nomination deadline in mid-February, with each student’s personal stories featured on the campaign website.
“What we want to capture (is) that diversity on campus comes in all forms, including different genders, race, and sexuality,” said Student’s Union vice-president (academic) Shane Scott, who was involved with creating the campaign.
This push for diversity comes in response to the Fall 2017 SU Identity Matters’ report, which found that the biggest factor determining student involvement in governance was gender. The study, which surveyed over 1,900 U of A students, found that while the desire to run for elections was about equal between men and women, women were much more likely to talk themselves out of running.
As compared to male colleagues, the study found women were more likely to feel inadequate for leadership positions, and receive more unsolicited comments regarding their qualifications and appearance during elections. Scott said these factors not only reduce the number of female students who run for executive positions, but also negatively impact their experience while in office.
While women make up over 55 per cent of incoming undergraduate students at the U of A, they made up less than 30 per cent of council seats from 2005 to 2016. There were no women in the SU executive team from 2010 to 2014, and in the most recent 2017 election, of the 14 candidates who ran for executive positions, only two were women.
“We noticed year after year that there is a large gender disparity in terms of student politics. Many years there has been a total lack of women in the executive,” Scott said. “For us, this is a huge concern because women make up over half the student population.”
The poster campaign will complement the STRIDE cohort program launched by SU president Marina Bannister last year. The STRIDE program teaches participants about student governance at the U of A, and like the campaign, aims to encourage more women and non-binary individuals to participate in student politics.
“(With this campaign) we want to help people see what diversity can look like on our campus and in our governance,” Scott said. “That way the people who might not usually see themselves reflected in the SU might consider running. That’s what we’re trying to get at with this campaign, to tell women that they can do it.”
Candidate resources will be passed out around campus during the nomination period to help students interested in running to apply. To make the election process more supportive and welcoming for all candidates, whiteboards will be put up across campus for students to leave positive messages for their candidates of choice.
“We want to change the election atmosphere to make it a more welcoming environment,” Scott said. “It takes a lot to throw your name out there and decide to run, so it’s important that we’re inclusive and supportive of people who do.”