The first mixed year at St Hilda’s college has seen JCR elections overwhelmingly dominated by men.
Next year’s President, Treasurer and Secretary will all be male, with no women even contesting the last two positions.
Oxford Women in Politics President Katy Theobald said she found the results disturbing. “The fact that in a single year there has been a shift to under-representation presents an interesting but very concerning problem. Often such an imbalance is attributed to a lack of role models but at St Hilda’s there were of course clear examples of women holding these positions for many years.”
She suggested that a quota could be introduced, and said “more should be done to ensure equal numbers of men and women run for a position, so that potential female candidates are not overlooked.”
President-elect Jesse Harber, however, said he felt gender was irrelevant. “We’re representing those who elected us, and I wouldn’t want to second-guess them.”
“I don’t think quotas are necessary, and I think they may do more harm than good. A quota would just paper over the cracks – female under representation in the JCR is a symptom of deeper issues.”
He said that the issue had rarely come up during campaigning. “It was certainly mentioned a few times, but mostly the policies and vision were discussed.”
Current JCR President Katherine Terrell expressed mixed feelings about the outcome of the election. She said she did not feel that sexism had been an issue at Hilda’s hustings, and that for the positions in question “there is no reason why either gender would do a better job.”
However, she agreed with Harber that the under-representation of women stemmed from wider issues. “There is a university-wide lack of representation for women in student politics, as well as in many other areas, which needs to be recognised; few women putting themselves forward for Presidential and VP positions is a phenomenon that many colleges find.”
She added, “I look forward to a future in St Hilda’s JCR, and across the university, where men and women are equally represented in student politics.”
St Hilda’s was Oxford’s only all-female college for thirteen years. In 2006, the governing body voted to admit men. The student body voted in support of the motion by a margin of just 55% to 45%.
Harber said male students had found the integration process very smooth. “Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that we’re the first year to be mixed – everywhere you look you see both male and female students.”