Where are all the women in university politics? Why are women so underrepresented in political societies and student elections? Yes, we sound a bit like a broken record. But it’s no wonder when the problem is so persistent. We have become accustomed to university politics’ naturalised gender bias and many of us fail to challenge it. The barriers to women’s participation in national politics – experience, connections, family obligations – are less pronounced at university. Unless you’re willing to argue that women are somehow genetically predisposed to apoliticism, you’ve got to admit it: there’s something going on in our universities that puts women off politics, a prejudice which can last a lifetime.
Women are not apolitical. If we needed more proof, 4.8 million women marched in protest of Trump’s presidency just last month. So, what’s stopping us in Durham? A lack of representation might be both the problem and the cause. It might be the case that you can’t be what you can’t see. Moreover, the stigma surrounding political women is almost certainly a contributing factor. After all, both of our two women Prime Ministers have been branded as cold, unfeeling, and made of iron; men can be bosses but women can only be ‘bossy’. University politics should be the place where these harmful, anachronistic tendencies fall by the wayside.
We think that women who are passionate about politics, from across the political spectrum, have a fantastic platform to trial their ideas and build their experience in Durham. The more we can do to open up a dialogue on women’s representation, the better our chances at rebalancing university politics. We’re holding a forum and networking event to hear your views – search ‘Durham Women in Politics’ on facebook to find out more. It will hopefully be just the start of a wider change in Durham’s political culture.
Photograph: Anth B via flickr.