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LUSU is running a campaign to enable more women to run for positions in the upcoming LUSU elections. The ‘She Should Run’ campaign aims to encourage and support any self-defining woman to run for office, aiming to address the issue of under-representation of women in LUSU.
A Facebook campaign is underway, with a cover photo being circulated in which students are encouraged to tag women they think should run for office. Lancs Women Lead, who are running the campaign, are also planning on producing cards that students can hand to women whom they feel should run.
On Monday, Week 7, a workshop was held which provided information about the upcoming election and gave interested women the chance to speak to previous women candidates, in order to support and encourage those considering standing.
The under-representation of women in LUSU is a growing concern. Caroline Arnold, the member of Lancs Women Lead who suggested the campaign, spoke to SCAN and said that “Women are the largest underrepresented group in LUSU,” despite the fact 52 percent of Lancaster University’s student population are women.
“There may be something putting off women from running,” stated Arnold, “we have so many fantastic women members of LUSU doing fantastic things but they aren’t running for office. We are lacking women candidates, and more women candidates leads to more women officers.” Whilst Arnold believes a woman candidate is as likely to be elected as a man, the main issue is recruiting women candidates in the first place, and this is what the She Should Run campaign targets.
“It’s not just a matter of numbers though, women bring a different approach and raise different issues – their contribution is invaluable,” adds Arnold. A similar campaign was ran in US elections and Arnold argues that by simply asking and supporting women to stand for office it was successful in boosting the representation of women.
SCAN also spoke with Rachel Harvey, VP (Campaigns and Communications), who believed the Facebook campaign has already been a success. “I’ve been quite surprised by how many people – just by being tagged in the cover photo – have thought ‘I’ve never even thought of that before’. So that in itself is making people think ‘yeah, I could do this. I’ve never considered myself for that role before’”.
“We’ve developed quite a large network now of women that want to help other women run, and men that want to help women run as well,” said Harvey. “Campaigning can be pretty brutal and stressful; it can be pretty ‘male dominated’ at times and that can be quite intimidating. So it’s about having that really strong network and saying to people ‘hey you can do this’”.
There is optimism regarding the outcomes of the She Should Run campaign. Harvey believed that eventually “[the number of positions] should be proportionate to the number of women we have on campus”.
Arnold stated that “this is the first time we have done this campaign so there isn’t a specific target yet but it would be fantastic to see an increase in the number of women candidates nominating themselves. If the campaign is successful, hopefully it will be done again. It would be great if it could be continued and scaled up.
“Ideally there would be a point where it is no longer needed.”
When asked if some women could find such a campaign patronising, Arnold countered that “it may be that some women find it patronising and those women don’t need the campaign, but many women do identify with the issue it seeks to address. I don’t see it as patronising asking and encouraging women to run for office.”
Furthermore, when challenged over whether the campaign could ‘negatively’ discriminate against men, Arnold argued that “when it comes to the idea of discrimination, there is nothing stopping a man setting up a campaign to encourage men to run for office, but it wouldn’t have the same purpose, because there isn’t an issue with the number of men running for office.
“It is important that women engage with the campaign and ask other women to run for office. This can have a powerful effect but I would encourage men to do the same and engage with the issue and be part of the solution.”
Lancs Women Lead, who are running the campaign, are an autonomous group of women in leadership positions across Lancaster University, compromising of lecturers, students and LUSU officers. Their overall aim is to increase the number of women in leadership positions and education and engage people on the obstacles facing women entering leadership positions.
Hustings for the CCO and Student Trustee elections, as well as for a number of JCR by-elections, is taking place on Monday Week 8, with voting taking place between Tuesday and Friday Week 8.