Women are underrepresented in the highest forms of elected leadership, including student politics.“It can be hard to imagine yourself in a political position of influence when you can’t see anyone that looks like you in those positions today. We need face-to-face interaction and participation in everyday activities in Parliament to show young women that they can do this,” says USC Women’s Issues Network Coordinator, Madeline Vrolyk.
This is exactly the issue that the USC-led initiative coined, “Women in House”, attempted to address in November. The USC provided funding for 24 female-identifying students to attend parliament to shadow an MP in their daily activities. Women in House hoped to inspire young leaders and allow them to imagine themselves in leadership roles both on campus and in their future career.
“Having diverse and inclusive leadership is critical to moving our country forward. That is why I was so pleased to participate in an initiative like Women in House, which empowers young women to learn about our political system and become the leaders of tomorrow,” said Kate Young, MP for London West. “I am especially proud of our government’s efforts to advance gender equality; and our recognition that when more women participate in politics, the result is a stronger, more representative democracy and a better decision-making process.”
Camilla Wong, a 3rd-year Political Science student who was a participant in the program, echoed Kate’s statements. “Everyone deserves to see themselves in their heroes and the USC’s Women in House program is working to do just that. It has afforded students across our campus, such as myself, with the opportunity to be mentored and inspired by the incredible women dominating our political sphere.”
The USC hopes to continue this initiative annually in order to play a defined role in reducing barriers to female participation in political life, especially in student politics. Prioritizing diversity in leadership is an essential component in ensuring the organization’s longevity and continued success. Actionable programs such as Women in House demonstrate to female students that their involvement in politics is critical and supported by their student council.
The USC offers hundreds of leadership positions, with the purpose of building student leaders who develop skills that can be transferred into future careers in the political space or elsewhere. Female students currently hold a number of these positions and the USC is continuing efforts such as the “#AskHer” campaign and the “Women Who Lead: Our Stories” series to encourage and empower more women to get involved in leadership roles on campus.
The Women in House program received overwhelmingly positive reactions from students and broader community members. In a reflection survey, 100% of respondents indicated they learned something new and 100% indicated they would recommend the experience to another woman on campus.
This year the USC received over 100 applicants for 24 positions and Vrolyk hopes the program can continue and even grow in the coming years. The 2018/19 USC Executive also pledged their ongoing commitment to support and empower female-identifying students on campus and continue to advocate for initiatives regarding safety and women’s’ opportunities.
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