As Grand Marshal Week approaches, many RPI students, both male and female, are embarking on the campaign process with high hopes of holding office in 2010. However, it is important for the well-being of all RPI students that our student government adequately represents RPI’s female population. For this reason, 10 female students have founded Women at the Top, an initiative on campus to ensure the involvement of women in student government at RPI.
In high school, female and male students participate in student government in about equal numbers, but when they get to college only 19 percent of female students do compared with 42 percent of male. Furthermore, research shows that young female leaders are more likely to need to be encouraged to run than their male counterparts. With seven males for every three females at RPI, many girls may feel marginalized or too overwhelmed to even consider running for a student government position. While many of the upperclassmen may recall that there have been two female Grand Marshals in the past three years, this trend doesn’t normally ring true. The first female Grand Marshal and President of the Union were not elected until 1983 and only 11.9 percent of all GM’s and 16.4 percent of PU’s have been female since women were first admitted to RPI in 1942. There is extensive support for girls at RPI both socially and academically with organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers, the Women’s Mentor Program, and sororities; but, when it comes to leadership and ambition, even RPI falls short. Women at the Top is the first step toward a balance of power within the student body.
The importance of females in the leadership “pipeline” extends far beyond RPI. Leadership positions in college give young women the confidence to continue seeking positions of power in the workplace and can help address the extreme underrepresentation of females in top executive positions. In order to address the obstacles women face in obtaining leadership positions, it is necessary to realize a gender imbalance still exists. We must support our sisters, girlfriends, mothers, and peers, giving them the tools they need to be successful and reach the top.
Women at the Top is addressing the imbalance right here at RPI. Our goal is to have a female on the ballot for every position during GM Week. We are seeking females to run for office, as well as both males and females who are willing to encourage these candidates. Only a minimal effort is required to support a female candidate. You can do as much as help the candidate campaign, or as little as simply tell a female friend the qualities she possesses that would make her a great leader.
Several events are being organized by Women at the Top to make the process of running for GM, PU, senator, etc. less intimidating for women at RPI. There will be an informational meeting Wednesday, February 24 at 4 pm in Union Room 3202 where you can enjoy some milk and cookies and learn about the election and campaign process. We are also organizing an alumni event for GM Week at which a panel of female alumni will speak about how they have successfully leveraged their RPI leadership experience in both their careers and communities. Look for our flyers around campus and join our Facebook group to learn about all of our events throughout the semester. If you are a female who is even remotely considering running or a student who is interested in supporting the women of RPI, we strongly encourage you to attend these events. Join us in transforming not only the political atmosphere at RPI, but the leadership potential of a generation of women. For more information, e-mail email@example.com.
Editor’s Note: This article was written on behalf of Women at the Top.