Initiative aims to increase female involvement in SGA

SGA Vice President of Senate Emily McCann addresses the Senate last week in their weekly meeting.

Although only seven women have served as SGA president at UNA since 1933, many students see a change on the horizon as more women step up to serve in higher positions within campus government.

Laura Giles, sophomore and chief of staff for SGA Senate, said many women don’t go out for executive positions in SGA because government and politics are most often dominated by men.

“I think a lot of people, even in the U.S. system, think it’s easier for a man to take on these roles because it’s always been that way in leadership,” she said. “With women’s rights, it’s made it easier for people in the United States and at UNA to see more women taking on leadership roles.”

Women make up 52 percent of collegiate student governments across the country, but only 43 percent of women go on to serve in presidential roles, according to data gathered by the American Student Government Association of approximately 5,100 institutions. At this time, women make up 17 percent of U.S. Congress and 22 percent of state legislatures.

Tammy Jacques, director of student engagement and adviser of SGA, said the executive council of Senate has been mostly even between male and female representatives since she began advising the group in 2006.

Right now, two female UNA students serve in executive roles in Senate, Jacques said. Since 2006, the only time when Senate wasn’t equally represented between men and women was during the 2008-2009 year when no females served on the council.

Women consist of 55 percent of the overall UNA enrollment-which is approximately 7,100 students. Jacques said she believes more women will take on executive positions in SGA in the future since the population of women is so large on campus.

“We haven’t really looked at it yet (as to why so few women run for executive positions), but we need to start looking at it and why more women are not running for these roles,” she said.

Launched in 2010, the Elect Her Initiative through the American Association of University Women has worked to empower and train women from high school to college to occupy political leadership roles on campus.

The initiative is making its way across the U.S. and has already touched ground in Alabama after officials made a stop in Tuscaloosa Feb. 4 to train young women for student government.

Emily McCann, junior and vice president of Senate, said there are nine women who occupy a total of 20 senator roles within Senate. She said SGA is diverse at UNA, with male, female, multiracial and international student representatives within the group.

“Women are a large part of the population at UNA, and it’s only right that women are involved (in student government),” she said. “They should represent our constituents in SGA and in our government. I believe we will continue to see more of a rise in women as it only takes one person to get the ball rolling.”

UNA alumna Michelle Rupe Eubanks served as SGA president on campus from 1995-1996. She said her role may have set an example for two other women who served as SGA president after her.

“They saw an opportunity for themselves to take on a role on campus that maybe they hadn’t envisioned themselves in prior to that,” she said.

After graduating from UNA in 1996, Eubanks earned a master’s degree at Mississippi State University and went on to become an award-winning journalist at The TimesDaily newspaper in Florence. She currently works as the community relations director for Shoals Hospital.

Eubanks said she is proud to be a part of so few women who have served as SGA president. She hopes to see more improvement at UNA with students branching out for untapped resources and fostering future student leaders.

“It’s all about a sense of worth and sense of self value,” she said. “Just because you’re not a man doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion on Division I athletics. Just because you’re not a boy doesn’t mean you can’t discuss tuition hikes. (Women) have to see that their voices are just as valid and just as important to be heard than ever. They just have to find a sense of ownership for that voice and do it.”