Harnessing female participation in student leadership
Gender inequality has threatened sustainable development in the past and in recent times.
The need to close this widening gap has become more evident following the unfolding global trends.
The global shocks such as the Russia/Ukraine War, COVID-19 and Climate Change have illuminated the numerous consequences gender inequality have on sustainable development.
Women are undoubtedly the hardest hit by global shocks, yet are conspicuously missing in the decisions to curtail them.
Taking stock of the COVID-19 containment measures, for instance, reveal that policies were not sensitive to the peculiar needs of women.
Could it have been different if more women were on the decision-making table? The onset of recent global occurrences have brought prominence to the question of how women are involved in the decision-making processes and offered the opportunity to rethink and fashion out effective ways of increasing the participation of women in leadership.
First, can harnessing women's interest in student leadership play any role in increasing the number of women in leadership? To date, females are intimidated to contest for main student leadership positions but prefer to deputise or not vie for any leadership positions because of the social construction around which gender is most qualified to hold leadership positions.
Interestingly, as young females age, they transition with this bottled-up fear.
Supposing this prejudice is dealt with in young females, could the level of enthusiasm of women to hold leadership positions affect women's involvement in leadership today?
Leadership ambition is often nurtured and encouraged in men but is seen as a negative trait in women.
This discrimination darkens the ambitions of women to hold leadership positions.
In effect, many women are ousted from the leadership scene.
The pernicious social stereotype that men make better leaders than women draws the lines for skewed socio-economic policies which make women worse off.
Many women are fighting an uphill battle in their quest to become leaders; sexual harassment, discrimination and varying abuses are meted on women in their desire to become leaders.
Consequently, many women have backed down on their ambitions, discouraging the interest of more women to pursue and assume leadership positions.
This has resulted in the lack of female mentors who could extend a helping hand to females interested in student leadership and guide them.
Unfortunately, the handful of women in leadership deepens the challenges of becoming a female student leader.
Women's enormous roles in developmental processes cannot be understated; creating the space for their active and significant participation on the decision table is thus key.
Educational institutions can cultivate a new generation of empowered and capable women leaders by encouraging and supporting female students to take on leadership roles.
As female students progress into higher education and the labour market, their leadership skills, experiences and networks acquired during their student years empower them to overcome bias and break societal norms and expectations that limit women's roles and capabilities in pursuing higher leadership positions.
However, the question is, how can this be achieved? First things first, let us harness the interest of females to vie for leadership positions on the household level and then provide the space and needed support in schools, churches, the corporate world and the national level.
Eunice Asiedu – Former SRC President, Ghana Institute of Languages
Eugenia Selasie Seadey – Women’s Commissioner, Graduate Student Association, University of Ghana
Esther Antwi – Women’s Commissioner, Bagabaga College of Education