Eating and partying at any of Princeton University’s 11 eating clubs implies that you are on the social map, it is a mark of prestige and success- a privilege reserved for the upper-class men, until 1969- when the university began admitting women.
Even though the rule was eradicated, one of the oldest clubs, Tiger Inn, has long carried a reputation for insensitivity to female students, and two of its officers were even suspended for sending emails ridiculing women.
The same infamous Tiger Inn made a breakthrough decision last week, and elected its first ever woman president, Grace Larsen.
Another one of the 11, the Ivy Club, the oldest there is, was a little ahead of its peer Tiger- as it recently elected its second female president, Eliza Mott. Ivy and Tiger Inn were the last two clubs to break down their walls to give way to women, compelled by a 1990 court order. Today, women are in charge at four of the clubs, the highest its ever been since 2002, especially compared to last year’s one club.
“I think the consensus that the club came to this year is that we’re establishing a culture where women are running, and women are winning,” Liz Lian, 22, a senior in Ivy from Chester, N.J., said.
Women at the university are tearing down the barriers in various arenas- like the Undergraduate Student Government and the Daily Princetonian, the college newspaper.
The journey wasn’t without hurdles. A 2011 report on women’s leadership at the university with the same number boy and girl students, found that “there has been a pronounced drop-off in the representation of women in these prominent posts since 2000,” due to a wide spectrum of speculated reasons like women underselling themselves, and their tendency to seek important roles in smaller organizations or high-responsibility but low-profile roles in larger ones. Some women also were discouraged from seeking high-profile positions.
Even then, the general environment at the university has become less hostile to women. While in early days of coeducation, women had to constantly prove themselves, the pressure has reduced exponentially. And by encouraging women to become leaders on campus, they’d be all the more comfortable with leadership. The report also recommended the instillation of mentor programs.
“It’s an important thing to have female representation,” said Ms. Mott, 20, of Grosse Pointe, Mich., the president of Ivy Club. “Perceptions change and new precedents are set.”
“We had some challenges in the fall, and a lot of those challenges had to do with a mind-set around gender issues,” Hap Cooper, 55, the president of the graduate board, said.
Tiger Inn accepted more women than men for the first time this year. Instead of being appointed, officers came via a secure online election. Three women and men each were elected to the positions.
“The grad board and the club worked as a group to achieve gender parity in the election,” Mr. Cooper said. Ms. Mott said that she was excited about that, and encouraged by the opportunities for change given the short institutional memory of the club.
Princeton was also under the scanner for having a sexual harassment case-history on campus, and its inability to handle and counter it efficiently. These increased instances of sexism that were gaining it a bad reputation, called for all the reforms that were made subsequently.
Original Source: The New York Times
[Featured Picture courtesy: The New York Times]