A week from now, two weeks of campaigning in the annual Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) elections will begin. As is the norm, these two weeks will be dominated by men running for election. And in three of the six races, bar some disaster in which students vote to re-open nominations, a man is guaranteed to win. Yet again, TCDSU will be led by a male President. It will have a male Education Officer. It will have a male Communications & Marketing Officer.
While The University Times – again, bar a situation in which students vote to re-open nominations – is effectively guaranteed to have its second female Editor ever, students in Trinity, almost 60 per cent of which are female, will be represented by a union that, year on year, fails to create a culture that encourages women to run for its most-important positions.
The balance of this year’s crop of candidates is more disappointing in light of last year’s achievements, in which the union ran a Women in Leadership campaign, partnering with Women for Election. This saw what was described as an unprecedented success – with eight of 16 candidates being female, and brought about the first majority female sabbatical officer team ever.
Success, however, is a strong word for a campaign that only brought about a momentary improvement. The problem is long-term. It’s persistent. It is unrelenting. It is one that is seen the world over, because the world’s structures routinely discourage the multitude of talented, capable and brilliant women from putting themselves forward for election.
It is jarring to think that the union, in creating a Women in Leadership campaign, didn’t seem to grasp that a long-term problem requires a long-term campaign. It requires follow-up workshops. It requires things that become part of the fabric of how we do things.
The isolated success of the Women in Leadership campaign – and how much it can change things with a few simple measures – only magnifies how much it failed to actually change things, because in one year we saw how refreshing and right it was to have so many women running, and how normal and unremarkable it should be to have talented women leading one of Ireland’s most important students’ unions.