Despite a 54 percent majority female population on-campus, men fill leadership positions of some of the most prominent student organizations. Women are active participants in virtually all student activities, but are not well represented on the boards of certain groups.
Of the seven members of The Corp’s board of directors, one is a woman. Five of 25 Georgetown University Student Association senators are women, and The Hoya and the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union each have two women on their seven-member boards.
Despite the apparent imbalance, organization heads said that numbers were not a factor in selecting board members.
“We always just choose the best applications for the job,” Corp Chief Executive Officer Brad Glasser (COL ’11) said.
GUASFCU Chief Executive Officer Arjun Mehta (SFS ’11) concurred.
“It’s extremely important to us that the only thing that matters is how hard you work,” he said.
Women are well represented in the mid-level leadership of financial and business-oriented organizations – six of 11 Corp managers are women, as are 11 of 16 GUASFCU executives – but these proportions tend not to translate to the top posts.
Glasser said The Corp, which last had a female CEO in 2004, has recently tried to identify reasons for perennially low female leadership in its highest echelons.
“We haven’t found anything that favors men over women, except for perhaps a perception that men have historically held these roles,” he said.
Glasser said The Corp has increased its efforts to attract more people to apply for board positions. Four of the seven spots are reserved for students who do not work for The Corp. Yet this measure does not necessarily ensure that more women rise to top positions.
This March, Margaux McGrath (COL ’12) was one of the four external members selected by The Corp’s upper management. The only woman serving on the board of the largest entirely student-run business in the world, she said she felt at ease with her experience but acknowledged there was room for a greater female presence in the ranks of The Corp.
“The other board members are extremely welcoming and receptive to my comments, and we all work as equals,” said McGrath. “As far as future boards go, I think it would certainly serve The Corp to continue to hire women in leadership positions.”
The Corp is not alone in its consistently low levels of female leadership. Only one of the last eight GUSA Senate speakers was a woman, and there have only been two female student body presidents since the turn of the millennium. Editor in Chief of The Hoya, Marissa Amendolia (COL ’11), is the first woman to hold the position since fall 2003, and the current Board of Directors Chair Margaret McLaughlin (SFS ’10) is the first woman to serve in her post since the spring of 2002. GUASFCU last had a female CEO in 2000.
Other organizations, however, have seen more women serve in leadership capacities.
“I haven’t seen [a lack of female leadership] at all in Lecture Fund,” Lecture Fund Chair Dara Gold (COL ’10) said. “We’ve been really fortunate that that’s not happened to us.”
Three of the last six Lecture Fund chairs have been women.
Mehta said that in recent years, up to five women have served on GUASFCU’s board at once, and never fewer than two.
“We do try to maintain some kind of balance,” GUASFCU Chief Lending Officer Ashley Mancuso (MSB ’11) said. But she said that dedication to the organization is the sole criterion in selecting board members.
When asked whether GUSA was taking any steps to attract more females, Deputy Chief of Staff Molly Breen (MSB ’11) said that her sex did not play a role in heading the student association.
“Leading GUSA isn’t about being a boy or a girl,” she said. “It’s about finding the people who care most and will fight hardest for the students’ needs.”
In the International Relations Club, another of the largest student groups on campus, several females actively serve in leadership positions, including as Treasurer and Secretary of Internal Affairs. On the Conferences Coordinator Staff, however, Rachel Braun (SFS ’12) is the only female member among the 12 members. While the IRC has made an effort this year to organize more female-oriented events, such as female-only training days or social events, Braun stated that it is usually males who pursue leadership roles in the club.
“I think part of the problem is that our initial numbers a lot of time are disproportionately male so it can look as if the number of women in leadership positions is a bit skewed because of that,” Braun said. “I don’t know if it is a problem of the system itself, or because there aren’t enough girls who are trying out for those positions.”
Braun indicated that in the IRC in particular, where many of their events are debate-based, the organization tends to favor participants who are seemingly more aggressive or competitive.
“I think that there is sometimes an association with guys being the stronger and more assertive leaders,” she said.
Claire Charamnac (SFS ’11), a Women Advancing Gender Equality Fellow, said she believes that women need to take more initiative in assuming leadership positions.
“It’s … a case of women being afraid to step up,” she said.
Gold said she thinks that women tend to struggle more with confidence and self-esteem, which could cause fewer to seek out leadership roles. But this general propensity does not apply to all cases.
One woman not afraid to step up was Hillary Dang (SFS ’12), who ran for GUSA president this year on what she said was the first-ever all-female ticket. Dang said that she wanted to use her campaign to empower other women to become leaders on campus.
“I hope [my campaign] encourages more females to get involved. . Hopefully it paves the road for change,” she said.
Dang said she plans to run again next year.
“It’s really important for Georgetown to bring in the female perspective,” she said.
Women in leadership roles say their gender is not an obstacle when it comes to running their clubs.
Georgetown University Grilling Society Vice President Rebecca Kiely (COL ’12) said she feels at home in her organization, even as the board’s only woman.
“I don’t feel any different,” she said. “I’m really glad to be a part of it, both as a social group and an extracurricular activity.”
GUGS attracted controversy two years ago when the organization sold T-shirts with slogans that some perceived as sexist, but Kiely said the slogan on the shirts did not mirror the club’s treatment of women. In December, Kiely will become the first female president in the 7-year-old club’s history.
Breen also said that her gender was not a factor at all.
“Most of the times that I am the only girl in the room, I don’t notice,” she said. “I genuinely believe the boys aren’t thinking about it either.”
*This the final installment in a three-part series on the role of women at Georgetown.*