For the first time in three decades, the total number of female legislators is dropping — the solution, some say, is to increase the number of women involved in student government.
But although men have traditionally dominated the student government ranks, USC’s Undergraduate Student Government, maintains a strong female presence.
“Our staff is just about a 50-50 split between males and females,” said Maya Babla, former USG chief of staff.
Among the top 50 colleges ranked by U.S. News & World Report, less than one-third of the student body presidents are women, according to a finding released by the American Student Government Association.
Although the overall balance of men and women in USG is fairly equal, since spring 2006 none of the 18 candidates for USG president and only one-third of the candidates for USG vice president have been female. The last female candidate to run for president was Jessica Lall, who was elected in 2005.
Logan Lachman, who won the vice president spot this year and will be sworn into office Tuesday, said she believes there are stereotypes about females in elected offices.
“Unfortunately, I do believe there are stereotypes associated with women in power. There is always a common misconception that women are weaker than men and therefore don’t make strong leaders,” Lachman said. “These stereotypes can affect voters as well as potential future candidates.”
American University’s Women & Politics Institute found that in 2006, 72 percent of students involved in the university’s student government were male.
Ava Lubell, the political director of the institute, told the Daily Trojan last year that women of all ages are less likely to see themselves as good candidates.
“Women need to be asked to run,” Lubell told the Daily Trojan. “They’re less likely to perceive themselves as being recruited, so you need to say explicitly, ‘We think you should run.’”
In Congress, women make up only 17 percent of members. Women make up 28 percent of the California Legislature and 23 percent of state legislators nationwide. Six of the nation’s governors, or 12 percent, are women, according to the National Foundation of Women Legislators.
“Quite honestly, I don’t think you’d be able to find these gender differences [at USC], and perhaps that’s an indication of the gender barrier being broken down a little further for our generation,” Babla said.
Though times have changed since women fought for the right to vote, traditional roles might continue to influence the role of gender in politics.
“I think a lot of things, other than their stance on issues, play a part in how a female candidate is perceived,” Babla said. “Voters still stereotype women candidates in some ways, and seek to better understand these ladies in terms of their family roles.”
Lachman said she has not found women to be shy about getting involved in student government at USC.
”We’ve never really had a problem getting female participation,” she said.