Lacking that feminine touch?

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Over recent years SCAN’s coverage of the LUSU Full Time Officer elections has been critical to say the least. According to last year’s headline and editorial the elections were a catastrophe which was all the fault of the voluntary Chair of Elections. The year before we experienced a second year of Payne (albeit a pun on the re-elected President’s name), when elections turnout fell for the second year running.

It’s more than a pleasant change then that this year we get to report on the highest voter turnout in recent years and no faults in the evoting system. The elections this year can quite rightly be branded a success, and to argue anything otherwise would just be petty nick-picking.

But there is one issue which LUSU cannot afford to ignore. It didn’t come from the elections, but from the candidates who stood. Despite having more candidates than recent years, there was only one woman standing for election. In the modern day, this has to ring alarm bells.

Some within the Students’ Union will claim that this year’s elections were such a success because the rules around standing in them have been streamlined, making them more open and accessible. The argument goes that this means more candidates felt confident in putting their names up. Maybe that is the case, but if they really were more open and accessible, how do you explain a group of candidates were 93.75% were male, and for that matter 93.75% white?

Last year, by elections day, 84.6% of the candidates were male. There is one woman on the Full Time Officer team this year, next year there will be none. Last year and the year before there were two women on the Full Time Officer teams, which shows that getting elected isn’t is the problem. But if less women stand for election, then the chances of them getting elected are of course reduced.

This may be a blip: a one off we find never happens again. But based on recent Full Time Officer elections, it appears very clear that women are less inclined to stand than their male counterparts.

LUSU cannot risk missing out on good candidates, and there have been plenty of woman capable of standing – and winning – who have not done so. The arguments that have been aired against standing tend to focus around not wanting the mess of it all. The mess being the politics of the role, not the effort of getting elected.

Women certainly can do politics, but from Westminster to Lancaster University Students’ Union, their style of doing politics tends to differ from mens’. It’s understandable that women would not want to operate under the top down dictat that has driven LUSU in recent years. Women are more inclined to work as a team, and if they feel that they’d be uncomfortable working in the political arena that is LUSU then maybe the Union needs to re-address the way it is doing its politicking.

It’s unlikely that guaranteed female representation will ever come back, and it’s questionable as to whether it should. However, the issue of why women don’t stand for Full Time Officer positions cannot be swept under the rug if LUSU wants to avoid becoming nothing more than a boys’ club.

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