Women in leadership: Students discuss roles, religion in panel

Emily Featherston, News Editor

When the Student Government Association, the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives and the French Club planned the panel “Cultural Conversations: Women in Leadership” as part of Women’s History Month, they were hoping students would be interested in a discussion. They got more than 60 students in Harry’s Monday night actively engaged in conversation with three panelists, even after the chance for convocation credit had passed.

The panel referenced a Crimson article published in the fall about how few female students serve in the highest SGA positions. The panel was comprised of junior political science and English major Laura Ann Prickett, sophomore chemistry major Mallory Smith and assistant director of athletics for student services Harold Gross. SGA chaplain and senior religion major Will Yarborough moderated the panel.

Web-PanelPanelists were asked to address the small number of females in leadership positions on campus, student perception of female professors and the role religion plays in women in leadership. Questions from the audience were also addressed.

Of the topics, the role of religion in the extent of female leadership drew the most attention and questions from the audience. Many students remained after the allotted time to continue discussing issues with Prickett and Smith.

Prickett said that though her view may not be traditional, she believes that a look at Christian Scripture in the context of when it was written shows that God’s love is offered to all people equally, regardless of gender, race or socio-economic background.

“Anyone can come before the throne, in the exact same way, with the exact same capacity, or in the exact same role,” Prickett said.

She said this is a conversation that is happening in every other part of the Church outside of the South, and she encouraged everyone to explore different perspectives about men and women within the church.

Smith, in contrast, believes that while human beings are equal in the eyes of God, there are different and distinct roles for men and women.

“We are created for different jobs and different relational aspects, and so because of those things we are better suited for different roles, not only in society, but also in the church,” Smith said.

Smith and Gross agreed that the traditional beliefs of the church are rightfully embedded within Samford, and Gross added that what those beliefs say about gender cannot be discarded.

Students attending the panel also had strong opinions about the topic.

“I would proudly call myself a feminist, and I think that limiting women to certain roles because of religions conviction does a disservice to the Samford community as well as the Church overall,” senior nutrition major Cecily Young said.

Young said that regardless of her position, she was excited that the conversation happened at all. Others thought the conversation didn’t go far enough.

Sophomore economics major Aaron Atwell said that while the discussion addressed women in leadership on campus, it did not address the greater issue of women in leadership outside the “Samford bubble.”

“Is the world really a place where women in leadership is just a conversation with some differing opinions or is it not a real issue where women are objectified and excluded? It needs to be more focused on the reality we live in and not the world we believe we live in,” Atwell said.

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