Men rule the Mount
Three-quarters of MSVU students are female but men are the majority in leadership roles
November 3, 2014, 12:00 PM AST
Last updated November 4, 2014, 2:40 PM AST
Mount Saint Vincent University only started admitting male students 40 years ago, and 75 per cent of the student body is female. The campus bookstore is stacked with women’s studies textbooks and school sweaters come in a range of pinks and purples.
Which makes it strange that the student government at a university known for championing feminism and women’s rights is almost exclusively male.
Three of the four members of the student union executive are men, including the president. In fact, Canada’s most female-populated university hasn’t had a female student president in four years.
Morgan Atwater, a third-year Mount student, says although she would have liked to see a female president, “it’s not just the student union that’s important.”
“There’s a lot of female representation in other areas,” she says. “Some of the biggest student groups are almost exclusively female.”
Justin Corcoran, the vice president of student advocacy, says he doesn’t like the example a predominantly male executive sets. A sixth-year student, this is his second year in student government.
“We as an exec always encourage both female and male students to get involved in the highest magnitude possible,” he says. New students who see an all-male exec may think, “‘Is this how it’s gonna run?’ And in fact, it’s not.”
But Corcoran doesn’t think it’s a “huge issue.”
“It’s all about timing and coincidence,” he says. “I think next year or the year after, we’ll probably have more girls being involved in this kind of thing.
Meredith Ralston, chair of the Department of Women’s Studies at the Mount, thinks there’s more to the lack of women in leadership than fluctuating interests. “It’s a societal issue,” she says.
On the first day of her Women and Politics course, Ralston asks her female students a question: “Why have you not run for public office?” Most of them respond with blank looks.
“They’re just not thinking about it,” Ralston says. “Women need to be asked, while men will put themselves forward.”
The sole female member of this year’s student union executive, Haley Myatt, agrees.
“That’s a stigma that’s attached with politics, that it’s more of a man’s thing to do, no matter the population of the university.”
Myatt, a fourth-year public relations student, ran for president in last year’s spring elections. She lost by less than 10 votes to Paul Whyte.
Now she’s the vice president of communications. She says she was disappointed at first, but her optimism won out.
“I know they’re doing great things,” she says of her male colleagues on the executive, “and they definitely deserve to have the job.”
“But it’s one of my things on my list this year, and throughout all my years here – to try and encourage some girls to go for the big roles.”
She wants female students to come and talk to her about running for student government next year.
“I’m ready to connect with them and encourage them to – it sounds so cheesy – but to shoot for the stars.”