Project Feminist U

How Gender Impacts a Student’s Experience on Campus

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Did you know that only 22% of candidates for Students’ Union Executive elections have been female?

In October 2014, the Students’ Union emailed all undergraduate students a voluntary survey titled “Does Gender Affect Your Campus Experience?” The purpose of the survey was to determine whether a student’s gender has affected their experience on campus, and if so, how.

A detailed analysis of the survey is available here and an overview of the results is shown below. Our response to the survey is a new initiative that we are calling Project Feminist University.

The mission of Project FU is to provide a venue for the University of Alberta community to gather, to share ideas, to have conversations, and to debate issues regarding the intersection of gender, politics, leadership, and feminism.

Two specific goals of the project are to better the Students’ Union by creating an institution that recognizes and mitigates gender-based barriers to involvement in leadership and politics, and to have conversations about what a feminist campus looks like by acknowledging how our structures and institutions may limit students due to perceptions of gender.

An overview of the survey results

Some questions focused on how students feel in the campus environment and others on involvement and leadership. The survey results provide a good overview of some of the gendered issues on campus. Overall, there are patterns indicating that female students perceive feelings of discrimination both in and apart from their academic experience on campus.

“There seems to be a lot more pressure on female candidates running in anything higher than a faculty association, in my experience, which is part of the reason why I never aimed higher”

Of all survey participants, 35% of both male and female students indicated that they had considered running in a student election. However, compared to male students, female students have indicated that they feel unprepared or inadequate for such positions. 49% of female participants versus 33% of male participants felt they did not possess the requisite amount of skills for a leadership position.

The survey results presented three dominant themes as to why female participants do not apply or run for a leadership position: (1) lack of knowledge and skills; (2) lack of demonstrated capability; and (3) lack of networks.

“I think the entire culture of academia is less suited for women. And women trying to break into those areas lack role models that make them believe it is possible to achieve their goals. This is the same for leadership roles on campus”

When asked if women (trans-inclusive) face barriers on campus that others do not, 42% of participants think women face additional barriers. When categorized by gender, 46% of female students and 30% of male students believe there are gendered barriers. Female and gender minority participants identified being judged unfairly as the most significant barrier faced by them.

The survey results will be used in the promotion and execution of Project Feminist University.

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Project Feminist U
Room 2-900
Students' Union Building
University of Alberta
8900 - 114 Street NW
Edmonton, AB
T6G 2J7