This year CGSA president Chris Park ’14, pushed the Catlin Gabel community to recognize the gender inequity in the CGSA. Currently, only two out of the 15 CGSA members are girls, despite the fact that an equal number of boys and girls ran last year. For this reason, this year’s CGSA elections will look a little different.
As in years past, students who want to run for office will fill out a petition with signatures from their peers proving that there is interest and consent from the community for their candidacy. Usually speeches from candidates would all be heard during one assembly, but this year the speeches will be given over two days. Park hopes that this way “people won’t be overwhelmed and will have a lot of time to think about who they want to vote for in regards to who they are as people and if they will do the work the job requires.”
The biggest change this year will be a question and answer session between the presidential candidates and the community. CGSA presidential candidate Raina ’15 said, “I think it is a really good idea because in the past, especially for the eighth graders, [students] have based their votes solely on the five-minute impression they get … this way people will be able to see what kind of leader they will get as well as see what kind of person the candidate is.”
Raina and other members of the community feel that the use of humor plays a large part in the overrepresentation of men in the CGSA.
When asked why he thinks girls are underrepresented, Park said, “I think one of the issues in the format of the election right now it is just a one-time deal, the speech which is three to five minutes, and I think sometimes guys use humor as a crutch and rely on being funny to get votes. This year we added another section to the election format with a [question and answer] section for [presidential candidates] and so we can see if they are really going to put the work in and really commit.”
Kallan Dana ’15, who is running for vice president, echoed this theory. “Often girls don’t say anything funny or they will make a period joke. I think there is a bias even if it’s subconscious that boys will be more fun or powerful,” she noted.
Although there is no way to know if the question and answer session will help gender equity, Park, Dana, and Raina are hopeful for the outcome of this year’s election.
“I think it has been too long since the last girl president … but [the school is] doing a good job this year addressing it at assemblies and I think we have a better chance this year than other years,” said Raina.
Dana agreed: “Bringing [the problem] up before elections is really helpful and that should happen every year.”
Looking to the future, Park hopes he is laying down the foundation for a lasting change and “would like to see results for this year and the future in terms of female participation. I don’t want it to improve for [only] one year … As a senior I still care what happens after I leave, and we need to ask ourselves [if we are] really representing everyone in the way we say we are. I don’t think it has anything to do with what we believe as a school, but we have not been treating it as a serious issue.”