Three new reps add to MSA gender gap

Only 10 of the student association’s 75 representatives are female.

Cali Owings

When the Minnesota Student Association elected three new at-large representatives at forum Tuesday, it added three male members to a roster already filled predominantly by men.

MSA represents more than 30,000 University of Minnesota undergraduate students, and more than 51 percent of them are women. Yet only 10 of about six dozen MSA representatives are female, and few of them hold leadership positions.

Though the organization has a female president in Sarah Shook and a female speaker of forum was selected for the first time in several years, all six committee director positions are filled by men.

The number of representatives in MSA is in constant flux, but student senators, representatives from student groups and at-large representatives make up the organization that usually has about 75 members.

And a cast of six men nominated by forum to fill three open spots Tuesday âÄî Joe Francaviglia, Matt Forstie and Colin Burke were selected âÄî tipped the balance further.

During that forum Tuesday, less than a quarter of the representatives in attendance were women.

College of Liberal Arts Student Sen. Lauren Himle said she was introduced to MSA through sorority sisters in Delta Gamma, including Shook.

Himle and Shook are no longer members of the sorority, but about half of the female MSA representatives represent sororities.

Forum Speaker Lauren Quick said she would like to see more representatives from womenâÄôs interest student organizations that arenâÄôt sororities.

Quick found MSA intimidating when she first became involved as a residence hall representative.

“I thought some of the upper-boys were attractive, and I didnâÄôt want to say anything stupid, especially with RobertâÄôs Rules,” she said, referring to the guidelines MSA follows while conducting its meetings.

Most women withhold themselves from participating in forum, Quick said.

Women tend not to have as much self-confidence in their abilities as leaders, especially when it comes to elected offices, compared to men, said Peg Lonnquist, director of the UniversityâÄôs WomenâÄôs Center.

“I think all of us on campus need to think about how do we help women gain that self-confidence, because we are missing that voice,” she said.

She recalled being on campus when the first female MSA president was elected in the 1980s.

Lonnquist pointed out that MSAâÄôs lack of female leadership mirrors a similar bent in U.S. politics. Not only has the U.S. never had a female president or vice president, but representation in Congress is low.

There are currently 17 women serving as U.S. senators and 75 in the House of Representatives. In both cases, women leaders make up less than 20 percent of representation.

Female representation canâÄôt always be exactly equal but should be closer to 50 percent, Lonnquist said.

She suggested women build their skills as leaders of smaller campus groups so they can have bigger opportunities.

“We want women to feel comfortable leading at all levels because they are certainly capable,” she said.

For the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, female participation is significantly higher. Roughly two-thirds of council representatives are female and two women serve on the organizationâÄôs executive board.

Despite low numbers in MSA, Himle said she has noticed more women becoming involved in MSA this year.

And although committee directorship is low, the Legislative Affairs committee on which she serves is about even as far as gender representation, she said.

MSA Rep. and Chief of Staff Elizabeth Shay said the men in MSA still do a good job of taking up womenâÄôs issues in their committees.

For example, Drew Horwood, director of the campus relations committee, put forth a position statement in response to sexual assaults on campus and is developing an anti-sexual violence campaign for MSA.