For some women on campus, the inauguration of Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) as the GUSA executive signaled a new era of student leadership at Georgetown.

Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount comprise the first all-female ticket to be elected to lead the Georgetown University Student Association.

Women have recently made strides in campus leadership, but statistically, a gender imbalance persists within the university’s highest profile organizations.

Though women make up a slight majority on campus, four of GUSA’s 16 senators, two of Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union’s seven board of directors members, two of the seven Students of Georgetown, Inc.’s board of directors and four of the 11 members of The Corp’s upper management are female.

While the degree to which these female leaders feel that gender discrepancies are a problem varies, many say they have faced obstacles on the way to their current positions.

“Women frequently fare worse in terms of being taken on for a leadership position,” the International Relations Club Director of Communications Emily Siegler (SFS ’14) said. Four of the 10 executive board members of the IRC, which is one of Georgetown’s largest student organizations, are female.

“Women do not possess the same credibility as do men when it comes to leading,” Siegler said.

For Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount, the idea of an old boys club has historically come across particularly strongly within GUSA. The last female GUSA president before Gustafson was Kelley Hampton (SFS ’05), elected in the spring of 2004.

“While there isn’t necessarily a culture of male domination at Georgetown, there is a history of male domination in GUSA,” Kohnert-Yount, former chair of the Georgetown University College Democrats, said.

She noted that this was particularly clear during elections, when she felt that female candidates were more heavily judged on their appearance than their male counterparts. Gustafson and Kohnert-Yountwere wary about identifying as the all-female ticket, because they did not want their gender to take away from their platform.

“There are different social standards for men and women [who] decide to run for office,” Kohnert-Yount said.

Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount’s executive branch is comprised of 11 women and 13 males. That of their predecessors, Mike Meaney (SFS ’12) and Greg Laverriere (COL ’12), was made up of four females and 22 males.

According to Stephanie Kuo (MSB ’13), executive secretary in Meaney and Laverriere’s staff, female underrepresentation in leadership positions is not just a GUSA or Georgetown phenomenon.

“In past years, it’s been sort of a systemic issue. Even if you look at the U.S. Congress, women are underrepresented. … There is room for improvement, but we’ve made great strides,” she said.

Kuo began her role coordinating the schedules and communication for the GUSA executive cabinet and staff but became increasingly involved in important decisions throughout her term.

Georgetown University College Republicans Chair Maggie Cleary (COL ’14), one of five females among the club’s 11 officers, says that the larger proportion of males in certain groups at Georgetown might be explained by differing preferences between men and women.

“A lot of activities that I am involved with seem to be very male dominated, and I think that is simply because girls aren’t interested in some of these topics,” she said.

According to Heather Seamans (COL ’12), co-president of Georgetown’s chapter of Republican Women, her organization was founded to foster a more moderate political discourse within the Republican party. Seamans stressed, however, that the group does not identify women’s issues as its focus, instead exploring topics including immigration reform and gay rights.

Seamans said that she feels women are well represented in campus leadership positions overall, arguing that the election of Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount was the continuation of progress that female leaders have made at Georgetown over the past year.

Current GUSA Director of Communications KaraBrandeisky (COL ’13) believes that a large part of Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount’s election success can be attributed to targeting students who have been historically underrepresented in GUSA, namely women.

In contrast, female leaders in GUASFCU and The Corp did not report feeling like a minority in their respective student organizations.

According to Chief Lending Officer Catie Barile (MSB ’13) and Chief Communications Officer Mary Bryan Ciarrocchi(MSB ’13), the ratio of male-to-female leadership inGUASFCU’s board of directors fluctuates but does not affect the culture of the institution.

“Every year the composition of the GUASFCU board is different,” Ciarrocchi wrote in an email. “We have seen past boards in which males have been the majority, and we have also seen past boards in which females have been the majority.”

While last year The Corp held information sessions to specifically encourage female students to apply for its board of directors and upper management, the representation of males and females is well-balanced, according to Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Wolfram (MSB ’13).

Outside of student organizations, Kuo noted that many female students serve as leaders in high-level positions within the boards that govern the university and alumni network. Kuo has previously served as a student representative to the board of directors.

“It’s not gender that defines us but shared passions and visions,” Kuo said. “At the end of the day, that’s the most important factor in our successes.”

Brandeisky also thinks that more women will move into leadership positions if a precedent of female involvement is set.

“Older female students encouraged me to pursue leadership positions when I was a freshman,” she said. “Early on, this made a big difference.”

Kuo agreed that it is important to provide women at Georgetown with mentorship and an example of female leadership.

“It’s on us to foster women in engagement and be great advocates for reaching out to more women,” she said.

Hoya Staff Writer Rita Pearson contributed to this report.

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