By Paul A. Holston
With such a high percentage of women compared to men on Howard University’s campus, you would assume that women held more leadership positions. Not necessarily, as some students are asking: Where are the leading ladies across campus, especially at the executive level of HUSA?
According to statistics from U.S. News and World Report, out of the 6,974 undergraduate students enrolled at Howard University during the 2014-2015 academic year, 33 percent are male and 67 percent are female.
Despite being the overwhelming majority of the student body, women are widely underrepresented when it comes to holding down top leadership positions in decision-making bodies across the university. Of the 210 student-run organizations on campus, very few women are in the top spots, according to the Office of Student Activities.
Some female students have expressed support for their fellow female bison who want to lead, but notice that some may be more comfortable in supporting roles like vice president, secretary or treasurer.
“Some of it has to do with stereotypes at Howard,” said Stephanie Holloman, current executive secretary for HUSA. “People see males and think president or top leadership. Females tend to go towards lower positions because they think that they just don’t see themselves being in top leadership, But still, there’s nothing a male can do that we can’t do.”
Meanwhile, Marcha Chaudry, a senior chemistry major, serves as the executive president of the Howard University Transfer Student Association. She says that the process of becoming president of a student government or organization position might also be intimidating. “You’ve got to be self-motivated to do this position,” Chaudry said. “Leadership is a universal role in any organization.”
The reasons behind why more women aren’t stepping up is unclear, yet, Reverend Kanika Magee, the Associate Dean of the Chapel, said many women are having significant impacts on our campus as leaders who are strong and humble enough to respond to needs of the university and community without the position of HUSA president.
“I believe that it really deals with the age, group and matriculation of students that are here,” said Brittany Johnson, a junior biology major and newly elected Howard University undergraduate trustee. The undergraduate trustee role is one of the few roles where a woman has held that position consecutively for two years or more.
What is very clear is that Howard women have the means and capabilities to take on sterner roles such as HUSA President. Allyson Carpenter was elected to the D.C. city council as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner.
“There are a number of women on campus who may be afraid to run as the presidential candidate, but representation matters,” said Carpenter, former HUSA deputy chief-of-staff. “When younger women on campus see women holding the top offices on campus, they too will be motivated to run.”
Travis Whitfield, for one, is supportive of women running for leadership positions because it’s different from the norm that he sees, and he’d like to see it more often. “Being an African-American woman running for a leadership position is something that has been a change in status quo,” said Whitfield, a freshman media management major. “Black women have to deal with a lot of criticism, often extremely more than black men. I feel like it would be a great start for their future and will add as an additional preparation tool for the real world.”
As each semester goes on, the watch for more ladies of Howard University to attain leadership positions will be on high alert. Not simply because of their gender, but because of their overall contribution as leaders for the university.
“I would advise to not be afraid, just lean in and do it,” said Carpenter. “I believe that more men on campus should support these women who want to rise up to leadership positions and stand firmly behind them.”
“A leader is somebody who is going to make sure that the things they want to do are done, regardless of their position,” Johnson said.
“I hope more women step out of their comfort zone,” said Chaudry.
With currently being secretary of HUSA, but soon graduating from The Mecca, Holloman said, “It’s taught me a lot about working with others, being a part of team and that no matter what happens, you really have to play your part and make sure that the organization is the best that it can be.”
[Story was Published in Howard University’s “The Hilltop” Student Newspaper 23March2015]