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Editorial: encouraging female leadership on campus

The Daily Princetonian recently published an article, as part of a four-part Women’s History Month feature series, on the rise of female visibility and leadership in major campus organizations as well as on the Street. While many women have been elected in recent years to ‘visible’ positions such as president of the USG, chair of the Honor Committee and editor-in-chief of the ‘Prince,’ Princeton has yet to fully bridge the gender gap. After all, while these elections demonstrate progress, many Princeton undergraduate women continue to face barriers to leadership positions. For example, when an organization’s officer corps or membership body is predominantly male, female members may drop out if they feel uncomfortable or if they do not see opportunities for leadership in the future. This creates a cycle of low female retention rates and low female visibility in leadership roles. Thus in order to better facilitate and encourage female leadership on campus, the Board urges campus organizations such as the Women’s Center to change their outreach campaigns in order to foster more inclusive dialogue. Furthermore, the Board encourages all University and student groups to push for more diverse representation and female visibility, especially at recruiting events.

In early Fall, the Princeton Women’s Mentorship Program sent out an email to all Wilson sophomores about upcoming events. While sent out to all sophomores, the email was specifically addressed to “Princeton Women.” This past October, the Women’s Center ran a series of poster campaigns with headlines such as, “USG: where men are presidents and women are secretaries.” While it is undeniable that these mentorship programs and publicity campaigns have increased campus dialogue about female leadership, the Board urges organizations to consider advertising that is more welcoming towards men. By making the advertising more inclusive, men could be better encouraged to attend and contribute to discussion about female leadership. Many of the current discussion groups and events mainly attract women who are passionate about gender inequality and who are already aware of the problems on campus. If these events are more welcoming of men, especially those who are not very familiar with the topic, then there is an opportunity to break out of this circle and engage a larger section of the Princeton community.

In addition to fostering more inclusive dialogue, all campus organizations should strive to promote the visibility of female leaders and highlight leadership opportunities early on in the year. An institutional problem for many male-dominated clubs is female-member retention rates. Women who feel uncomfortable in these clubs or who don’t see a possibility for leadership roles often times drop out and choose other activities. This can leave clubs with a comparatively small pool of females for leadership positions, further perpetuating this vicious cycle. In order to address this issue, the Women’s Center should offer workshops for student groups leaders on how to better engage and retain female members. University centers and individual student groups could also offer more programs and panels in early fall or before major election periods that spotlight female leaders and introduce the leadership positions available on campus. During the school year, student organizations with an exclusive officer corps should strive to delegate leadership opportunities to a diverse membership body, especially females. When students feel engaged and see opportunities for leadership early on, they are more likely to stay involved. Furthermore, at recruiting events such as Princeton Preview, student groups should strive to have diverse gender representation at the activities fair and open houses. Interacting with active female club members at these recruiting events can make joining less intimidating for prospective female students.

While Princeton has made great strides towards gender equality in recent years, there still remains work to be done. Thus in order to better facilitate and encourage female leadership on campus, Princeton organizations should foster dialogue more inclusive of men and look for opportunities to spotlight female leadership on campus.

TheEditorial Boardis an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor and the Editor-In-Chief.