Students without female rep

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Liana Salvador is running for a seat on Ryerson’s Board of Governors and she wants to bring some gender diversity to the most powerful body on campus.

Last year, there were no female students on the board.

Salvador is the vice-president education for the Ryerson Students’ Union, (RSU) and the only woman running for a student seat.

Salvador said she’s had to work to be heard in a predominantly male field. In the political realm, she said she’s seen her ideas discounted by male egos in the past.

“Since the decision-making bodies of the university are mostly dominated by men, as a woman — and a racialized student — it is a bit of a challenge finding your voice,” Salvador said.

In 2008, the Council of Ontario Universities found that more than half of all university applicants were female. More females are vying for spots in every field but engineering, the applied sciences and business.

Most women, however, are still hesitant to get involved because they feel like outsiders in student politics, said Connie Guberman, University of Toronto’s status of women officer and a women’s studies professor.

“They feel discounted, they feel invisible, they don’t have a sense of entitlement,” Guberman said.

The absence of women in student politics is merely a reflection of the gender inequality that exists on a national level, said Katherine Giroux Bogard, national chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students.

“If you look at the broader society, only 22 percent of members of parliament in Canada are women,” Bogard said.

“And if you look at that, for example, the teaching staff at Canadian universities, only 34 per cent of university teachers are female.”

Equal participation in student politics is crucial to tackling women’s issues on campus.

One example is the nationwide No Means No campaign, a date-rape awareness effort that emerged in 1999 as a result of women’s involvement in student unions.

Yet to Salvador, every decision, whether specific to women or not, affects female students. Including a female point of view would likely mean a more inclusive approach that considers how university policies affect issues like women’s living wage, campus safety and the availability of daycare.

“I think it’s important to look at a particular problem and think about how that will affect women on campus,” she said.

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