The National Union of Students Conference is to vote on motion 701 at its conference this week for equal representation via a gender balance system for NUS Executive positions.
The motion will lay out the reasons why Students’ Unions across the country must bring in a female quota system to ensure their elected delegation teams are comprised of at least 50% females.
The question is however, is this really necessary for Loughborough? Last year Loughborough’s Sabbatical Team was an exact 50/50 split, whilst being a 30/70 split male to female with this year’s Exec-elect. In many student’s eyes Loughborough’s sabbatical team goes above and beyond on equal representation between the genders.
The issue many have taken with this motion is that it imposes on Unions which perform very well on gender equality an unnecessary statute.
Loughborough unfortunately doesn’t have any female NUS delegates this year, but they have had lots in the past and will have lots in the future. It is in some places elsewhere that women need greater opportunities in Students’ Unions, as in parts of the United Kingdom they are almost entirely absent from union elections.
The justification for imposing this measure on the website supporting the motion reads: “This is not ‘NUS telling student unions what to do’ but a result of students’ unions collectively deciding to ensure our democratic structures have as much representational legitimacy as possible.”
The issue for many Loughborough Students is that this isn’t necessarily fair. Some have suggested that it would be fairer for Students’ Unions who meet thiscriteria without gender quotas to “opt out.”
Yet gender inequality throughout society is a consistent and institutional problem and whether the NUS adopting an equal representation measure will lead to an avalanche of businesses and political parties adopting similar measures is doubtful.
However, the NUS adopting equal representation measures is now necessary, with 55% of the student body at Higher and Further education institutions being women.This is contrasted with only one third of NUS delegates at their conference making up just one third of delegates present this week. Any attempt at reducing institutional inequalities can only be a good thing.
The NUS is clearly trying to resolve a problem which is prevalent in many Unions, but not all. It was described by some delegates that I spoke to last night as “trying to take a sledgehammer to a floating cork”. It will be interesting to see the direction the debate goes when it is addressed during conference.