Photo courtesy of Ashisha Persaud

Female leaders on campus

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By Maham Shakeel

Currently, Ryerson is made up of numerous groups on campus, of which, more and more are being run by women.

The current presidents of the Ryerson Engineering Students Society (RESS), and the Ryerson Commerce Society (RCS) as well as next year’s president at the  Ryerson Communication and Design Society (RCDS), are three woman who have or will represent the majority of students on campus.

Between them one common idea was brought up continuously which, as Urooj Siddiqui, who heads RESS put it, “Leadership is not a gender. It’s a quality.”

Well, perhaps at Ryerson at least, says Ashisha Persaud, president of RCS, “you can have it all but in the real world, after we graduate, I know sexism will cause more hurdles for me than I have had here.”

For Siddiqui her “day off” begins at 9 a.m. and is jam-packed with meetings and appointments until late in the evening.

She says, “It’s this hardwork, mixed with logic and assertion that will get you where you need to be regardless of your gender. When you’re right and doing things other people can’t, people will have to recognize the authority you have and that means looking past whether you’re a woman or a man”

Siddiqui does recall having a meeting with another group where she pitched her team’s proposal to have it thrown back with questions and arguments. When her male VP pitched the same idea, it was welcomed with nods and handshakes.

“I can’t say if that’s because of my gender, but I think it was. Do I care? Not really because I know how to get things done, how to handle my team and do what’s best. If you don’t have that confidence, you can’t be a leader.”

Persaud echoes the idea. The RCS officially has 15 female presidents and 15 male presidents in its ratified student groups with Persaud as the president of the entire society. She says while she hasn’t faced any blatant sexism, she’s ready to enter the business world that is still male dominated.

Recent studies indicate stagnant gender wage gaps and low amounts of women in senior managerial positions, company boards and parliament. And with the passing of International Women’s Day, which made noise by briefly putting women’s issues on blast—slipping them back under the rug the following day, is sure to keep gender inequality where it is.

The New York Times released their Glass Ceiling poll a few days ago and found fewer large companies are run by women than by men named John. Let that sink in. Men specifically with one name are holding more senior positions outnumbering the total number of women having any name, from Abby to Zara.

While that study looks at American cooperation’s, the Economist released their glass-ceiling index, fiound that Canada has a higher gender wage gap and lower percentage of women on company boards than its neighbors to the south.

“That’s basically saying it doesn’t matter how good you are, how capable you are—to be taken seriously you need to be a man,” said Casey Yuen, fresh off winning an election to be next year’s president of RCDS.

“Its not fair to say men and women handle positions of leadership differently,” she said, “you’re either capable of holding down a team, mediating problems that come up and making decisions that matter, or you’re not.”

The study also found that one in 25 women serve as CEO in the large companies it looked at.

The business world contradicts Ryerson’s world where the dynamic of female superstars on campus are equal to their male peers. Yuen says there is opportunity for women at every corner of the university and that she was always taken seriously as the previous VP of finance for RCDS. As the new president, she expects it will be the same.

Yuen knows Siddiqui and Persaud because she says leaders collaborate and end up at the same places. “I know right now that the business world outside of Ryerson isn’t ideal for woman,” she says, “but women like Siddiqui and Persaud and so many more on campus will end up as leaders in the real world because our student body will graduate with them and with the mindset that says women have been and will continue to be just as capable as men.”

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