There have been only five female Student Government Association presidents in the past 21 years at Butler University—something candidates Kelsa Reynolds and Katie Palmer hope to change this election.
Despite Butler’s female majority and large female participation in SGA, the number of past female presidents is low.
There are certain stereotypes female candidates have to overcome in an election, even at the college level, Margaret Brabant, a political science professor, said.
“I think these stereotypes are actually reinforced in the way women run for office,” Brabant said. “Women run into the question of how feminine to appear.”
SGA presidential candidate Kelsa Reynolds, current vice president of operations, said she doesn’t believe there is a different campaign route for females.
“I think it’s about seeking the proper people who share your platform,” Reynolds said.
Katie Palmer, who is also an SGA presidential candidate, said being elected president would be a huge honor, regardless of gender.
“It would be very impactful for me,” Palmer said. “The gender aspect is not as important to me.”
Reynolds said the lack of female presidents in the past might be due to a lack of exposure of the SGA.
“People haven’t been exposed enough to the SGA and haven’t developed an understanding of its importance,” Reynolds said.
She said it is important to increase SGA exposure, especially for freshmen, and encourage them to become involved.
“Personally, I got involved as a freshman and have continued to become more involved during my time at Butler,” Reynolds said. “I know the importance of getting involved early.”
Both candidates said the fact that two female candidates are running this year would help increase female presidential involvement in the future.
“I think this shows the equal opportunity of SGA,” Reynolds said. “I’m excited for the future.”
Brabant said she has doubts about the impact of having two female candidates on society’s perception of female leaders.
“I don’t think it will change much,” Brabant said. “I think it may have an impact on the way these candidates conduct their elections and articulate their platforms.”
The SGA assembly in general has a very balanced number of males and females, current SGA President Al Carroll said.
“Women aren’t underrepresented in SGA,” Carroll said. “Three of the SGA vice presidents are women, and there’s a good balance on assembly.”
In terms of how gender will affect their potential presidency, Reynolds said it is more about the attitude the president brings to the role.
“It’s just a matter of personality and an energetic outlook,” Reynolds said. “The male or female aspect doesn’t make a difference.”
Palmer said she would have a different perspective as a female president, especially considering her role as a resident assistant.
“I have a different understanding of campus being a female,” Palmer said. “I know what issues are affecting the female population.”
Reynolds said the support team a president builds around him or her is very important to a successful term.
“You have to have a great executive board, male or female,” Reynolds said. “It’s about how you are perceived during your presidency.”