How can a woman SU President change the game? Interview with Jessica Oshodin, co-initiator of She Should Run

Only three women acted as Presidents of the King’s College Student Union (KCLSU) since 2000. Out of 22 Presidential candidates since 2014, only 8 were women. This year there is only one woman Student Officer. There is no woman amongst Student Trustees. How would a woman President change the game? Roar spoke with Jessica Oshodin, SU Vice President Postgraduate about She Should Run, a campaign aiming to encourage women’s participation in student politics.

In early December,Roar participated in a meeting to discuss future events related to the Spring Student Union elections. There were four women and one man in the room, all taking in the above statistics.

She Should Run, say Jessica Oshodin, SU Vice President Postgraduate, also present at the said meeting, and Sparsh Sehgal, SU Women’s Officer. They have recently launched a campaign in the run up to the Spring elections encouraging women to stand for leadership positions. Modelled after a similar and highly successful initiative at Sheffield University, the Should Run Campaign will highlight the importance of women’s involvement in politics, as well as build key leadership skills through various workshops and events.

Roar talked with Jessica about her experience as a student leader, how can increasing women representation make a difference, and her personal motivations behind She Should Run.

Roar: Looking at the statistics for positions within the SU, it often appears that issue is not that women don’t get elected. They don’t run at all. Why do you think this happens?

Jessica Oshodin: There are so many myths regarding elected positions and the elections. I don’t think people are aware of what the role entails and for some whether it exists! Some students may feel they aren’t political enough or may not have the right experience. Others may not want to take time out from their studies. There is a myriad of reasons why more students don’t run in the elections.

R: Please tell us a bit more about the campaign. What are your personal motivations for getting involved in this? What have you got planned? The campaign aims to inspire and encourage woman to run in the elections particularly for sabbatical positions. I wanted to bring it to King’s after hearing about the campaign at Sheffield University Student Union. My own personal motivation was being the only woman on the officer team.

J: Myself and Sparsh (Women’s Officer) have a great range of events lined up including the launch on 22nd January, a woman in leadership event and workshops: Stand up, be heard; Get ready; Becoming a sabbatical officer. Look out for our stall which will be on each campus from 21st January. Further details will be released soon.

R: The Sheffield campaign was extremely impactful, leading to the election of an all female team. What do you hope She Should Run will achieve at King’s? 

J: I hope it would achieve a more diverse team in terms of gender and the need to continue to develop opportunities for all women. I also hope it initiates conversations on why, as a society, men are automatically deemed more capable or qualified to be leaders.

R: What are some pressing issues that should be addressed by our next SU President and how do you think having a woman President will change the game? 

J:There a lot of issues students are concerned about, the SU president can’t solely address these issues. It would be up to the student body to inform what the pressing issues are. However, the pressing issues I would like to see addressed includes sexual harassment, PGR wellbeing, course cuts, family friendly campus and distance learning student’s engagement. A woman president will change the game if her politics are informed by the needs of the student body. Also her experience as a woman will inform her perspective when it comes to lobbying the university.  It would be great if a woman was elected as the next president, that would make them the 5th female KCLSU president since 1908.  Of course that isn’t to say that by just having a woman president everything will be perfect. Representation isn’t just about people being in a space. I hope that it would lead to radical structural change.

R: Who is your favourite woman leader? What makes a good leader?

J: My favourite leader is Olive Morris, a community leader and activist. Olive co-founded Brixton Black Women’s group and Organisation of Women of Asian and African descent (OWAAD). She is so awesome and her contribution to British activism is understated. Olive achieved so much by 27 when she passed away.

A good leader has emotional intelligence, can make great decisions, be trusted, motivates others and yields their power effectively.

R: Please tell us the story of how you decided to run.

J: It was quite last minute. I had ideas on what I thought postgraduate representation should look like and I really enjoyed my time as the Postgraduate Taught Rep for the IoPPN Student Forum. So when I saw the posters, I spoke to a friend about it and they were really encouraging so I decided to run.