Overlooked Female Leaders
Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 08:04
I assumed that by the time I reached higher education, women’s leadership wouldn’t really be an issue. However, I could not have been more wrong.
I’ve been spoiled when it comes to female mentors and leaders at Georgetown, especially as a student in the languages and linguistics department, which is predominantly female. Most of the organizations I’ve been involved with are led by female students. The organizations I currently work with operate out of Georgetown’s Women’s Center, which fosters female leadership. Despite the fact that I have spent my college career surrounded by amazing female leaders, I am firmly of the opinion that there is a huge overall lack thereof at Georgetown.
Before I continue, I’d like to make it very clear that all the opinions I state in this piece are entirely my own, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Women Advancing Gender Equity fellowship, of which I am a member, or those of the Women’s Center.
As a member of WAGE, which was founded by a handful of female leaders in the Class of 2008 to establish mentor relationships for undergraduate female leaders and to provide a space to discuss gender equity issues and leadership development, I have had the privilege of attending panels and discussions on women and student leadership at Georgetown. I’ve also been able to have many conversations with fellow WAGE members and other female leaders about the state of leadership at Georgetown.
I’ve found there are two main schools of thought regarding female student leadership at Georgetown: One is that there are nowhere near enough female leaders at Georgetown and extensive steps should be taken to get more female students involved and recognized for their work and achievements. The other is that by calling attention to female student leaders, we’re making the problem worse.
Typically, the women who share the latter perspective hold high-ranking positions in what are traditionally considered male-dominated fields. They may have their authority undermined if it is pointed out that they are, in fact, women. To prove they are just as capable as men, they cannot afford to make gender an issue.
I heartily disagree with this view. Women I have spoken with who are leaders in service and culture-oriented fields find they constantly face discrimination for being female leaders. Culture and service are typically female-dominated areas, and so no one really cares that the Center for Social Justice, for example, is full of amazing women student leaders.
When student papers like The Voice or The Hoya deign to write about the issue of women’s leadership at Georgetown, they always look to organizations like the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union, Georgetown University Student Association and Students of Georgetown, Inc., organizations that are well known among the students, control large amounts of money, have vast influence over the student body and are traditionally male-dominated.
The COO of The Corp last year was a woman. The new GUSA president and vice president are both women.
Yes, this is amazing. It’s incredible. But it also undervalues the dozens, even hundreds, of female students who make up the leadership of organizations that are traditionally female-dominated, but are considered less serious because they’re related to culture and service.
Do we have a lot of women leaders at Georgetown? Yes. Is there a perception on campus that we don’t? Absolutely. Have we come a long way since Georgetown went fully coed in 1969? Of course.
But do we still have a lot of work to do to make female leaders at Georgetown actually represent roughly 50 percent of the student population and feel that they can be women and leaders without it being a big deal? Definitely.
Anne Musica is a senior in the College and a WAGE fellow.