Women in Congress: Student Government as a Pathway to PowerMay 12, 2009
American University’s Women & Politics Institute has gathered some interesting research on women in Congress and student governments. The institute asked women currently serving in Congress if they had previously served in student governments and found that 53.7 percent had been involved in high school or college or both. The study confirms that holding student leadership positions is often the foundation for holding higher political offices.
Having this information may help motivate young women to pursue leadership roles on their campuses, where women often hold only a few of the student government positions. Campaign College, begun at American University in 2006, teaches young women how to run for student government and win. During the program’s first year, American University had a 13 percent increase in the number of young women involved in student government.
Now in its third year at American University, Campaign College has partnered with AAUW and Running Start to bring the program to schools in Louisiana and Iowa this spring. At the 2009 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, AAUW, the Women & Politics Institute, Running Start, and student liaisons from the two spring pilot programs will be presenting on how to bring Campaign College to other campuses.
As the Women & Politics Institute’s study shows, leadership positions — and especially student government positions — provide the foundation for political careers. While the number of young women attending college is on the rise, they are still underrepresented in student governments. Programs such as Campaign College can help not only increase the number of young women serving in their college student governments but also create future political leaders.
Written by Jennifer McGuire, AAUW-Leadership and Training Institute Fellow.