Almost a week on from the Student Officer elections, we have now had time to accept or at least become used to the idea that the four future representatives of our university will all be male. What will the next year hold with the decisions being made by these four individuals?
This vote was democratic. Each candidate campaigned and every individual had the opportunity to express their preference. This was a vote which should have resulted in a proportional representation of a student majority. There should be no grounds upon which we can argue or criticise, but the actual result is a cause for concern. With female students accounting for 58% of the university’s student population, male officers will find it harder to guide the university in the direction that a large proportion of the student population would prefer, and ultimately need. They may do a very good job, and they may approach each discussion and debate with a clear and open mind; but overall, they will have a different view to those which the female candidates were seeking to promote.
Although there are many people who would have no qualms about approaching our newly elected all male team, there are some societies who will inevitably feel unable to talk to them with confidence and the feeling that they are being listened to. There is a legitimate cause for a proportion of the student body to doubt whether each society and each demographic that comprises the university will be treated fairly. There is an overwhelming feeling that this new team will not be able to provide the reassurance and security for everyone on campus.
It is likely, that the needs of the female student population will be overlooked or not noticed at all. As a practical issue, this is obvious and makes the idea of a gender quota all the more necessary for future elections: all voices need to have the chance to be heard.
With the University having a reputation as an elitist institution; should it not try to keep up with the changes in political culture, and focus on addressing the lack of female representation in higher positions of authority? The answer is it should.
Over the past decade, there has been a steady decline in the percentage of female Student Officers since the gendered roles have been removed: this cannot be a coincidence. Over the past 10 years, out 40 Student Officers, only 14 of these have been female. If there is anything to be said, it is that it must be questioned as to why there has been a decline in the amount of support for female candidates. With the number of voters participating in the election increasing, it appears that the subconscious views of many may have taken over. The notion that authority roles require a man is clearly the result of a redundant socially-constructed gender norm. But, with the media and wider world playing such a significant role in the lives of our generation, these outdated and backwards ideas are now being reflected ever more distinctively in our own lives.
Without a quota, the representatives who are responsible for the entirety of the student population are not encouraged, nor are they obliged, to act in the best interests of the people who they are supposedly representing. Is this not a reason to introduce a quota system? Should we not be seeking a degree of equality for our representatives?
As it is, this upcoming year is not going to be representative of our university’s student body. Rethinking, and indeed modernising the electoral system is the most reasonable action to take after the outcome of this election. We can learn from mistakes, but only by acknowledging that they are in need of addressing. It is time for the Guild to stand up against societal prejudices and stereotypes, and introduce a guarantee that every sector of our community will receive fair and true representation.