“The New Normal: Women in Leadership” initative, organised in association with Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), was launched this evening with a Women for Election talk in the MacNeill Theatre in the Hamilton.
The campaign aims to address the under-representation of women in leadership roles within college and target what women themselves see as barriers to these roles. It intends to raise student awareness of decision-making structures, to create an environment to encourage women to challenge for leadership positions, and to support women in realising their leadership ambitions in college.
The evening began with SU president Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne, providing context to the campaign by talking about the current gender balance within the SU. He noted that within TCDSU, fewer women go for sabbatical positions, with the last instance of a female SU president being over 10 years, as with Ents officer. This is despite the fact that proportionately the success rate is the same for both genders when they run for these positions.
Education officer Katie Byrne – the only female sabbatical officer this year – added to this in more detail. She spoke about the under-representation of females in sabbatical roles in Trinity. Despite 56% of the student population being female, only 24% of the sabbatical roles since 1996 have been held by females, she reminded audience members. Byrne discussed her own personal path of becoming class rep in third year, then convenor, as well as the Ents officer for the Zoological Society, before going for the role of education officer, and emphasised the importance for women to have the confidence in their own abilities to go for these roles.
This was followed with a talk from Niamh Gallagher, a co-founder of Women for Election, a non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation established to equip and inspire women to succeed in politics. She spoke about how she had been approached by Darragh Keogh of St. Patrick’s College, with a student body of 80% females and an SU made up entirely of males, indicating that the trends in Trinity reflect an issue on a much broader scale. She then outlined the practical obstacles that the initiative hoped to address such as campaign management and public speaking. Highlighting the importance of college as a chance to develop leadership potential for future careers, she also maintained that student politics was weaker for the lack of diversity it had as a result of the gender imbalance.
Gallagher also formally launched this year’s programme, announcing that a workshop in leadership and management would take place on 9th December, followed by a campaigning workshop on 11th December. Workshops after Christmas will deal with public speaking and the attitudes and barriers women can face on campus.
She spoke about how the success of a postcard campaign run in UCD last year, which allowed students to nominate worthy contenders for leadership positions, led to the amount of women running to double in the space of two days, displaying the interest that exists among women to get involved. She finished by reiterating the importance of confidence in getting involved in college leadership.
Senator Averil Power was the last speaker of the launch. Speaking shortly after addressing the UN in New York, she highlighted the value of student leadership roles in becoming involved in careers in arenas as diverse as politics, RTÉ and NGOs. She too related her path to becoming education officer based on a manifesto she devised as a result of librarian strikes and poor internet access. From there, she became president of TCDSU and later a Fianna Fáil senator. She identified lack of self-belief or fear as being the main obstacle to women in power, before holding a question and answer session with the audience.