This is not a cry out for help. Or quotas. Or
worse, pity. It is just a simple observation I made over the years of being
part of our favorite parallel world, where life is great, we do what we love
and we yell out to the world "this is how you do it, how you fix
international conflicts and resolve a crisis". But are we really that much
Having been part of MUNs as an organizer, a delegate, a journalist, a chair and editor-in-chief I think I have a quite wide range of positions and conferences as a basis and one thing I noticed only recently, after 3 years of MUNing is this: We seem to have a gender problem in MUN world.
Maybe this only came up recently, maybe this is just a personal experience out of the ordinary or maybe a misperception - but what if this is really the case - are men taking over secretariats and lastly, become SGs, maybe more easily than their female counterparts?
Well, my quick count out of 17 simulation conferences across Europe (16 MUN, 1 MEU), 14 were presided by male SGs, only three by female ones. This is quite striking. Especially when seeing that, looking back upon my last three committees, the vast majority of delegates was female. I had an all but one female council once. So how come, we are doing great when it comes to recruitment of delegates, corresponding generally with the gender rates at universities in Europe.
My claim is this: MUN is a different world, yes. But our gender prejudice we know from the real world are present here, too. It is not that I hate you guys, I loved all my SGs don't get me wrong. But female SGs seem to be so rare, yet, there is many great female chairs and very many great female delegates - so what is that they do not seem to make it to the top? I simply find it very curious and feel this topic deserves a bit more attention and discussion.
Over the years, I observed quite some things in MUN world:
Is it the women themselves, not wanting to step up the game, lead a team and deal with all the positive and negative aspects of planning and pulling off a fully fledged conference? Or is that male chairs grasp for the SG position with more ease than female ones do? Or something else completely? This is most certainly not a piece on why us with the boobs are presumably worse off than those without. I am a big defender of achievement, if you achieve, you deserve something and if you deserve something you have to proof, all the time, that you actually do. So your gender is the last thing that defines you, but if others define you by your gender, thats when it gets tricky.
During the last three years, I observed quite some curious things about gender, now in retrospect, I wonder - why have I not wondered about this any earlier?
When selecting chairs, usually a quota has been discussed in the beginning - "no Wurstfest", "Please make sure you find some female chairs, too", or "If its a male SG, at least we need a female deputy SG" were common phrases during the initial organizing phase.
This does in no way mean, quality of chairs isn't the first criteria. But the "image" is certainly one of them that is already on the organizing teams' radar. Is this a good or a bad thing? Is this desirable? Should not the single most important thing - competence - be the guiding principle? So are men simply more competent in higher MUN positions? This is a very critical question - which standards do we live by, and what if those do not yield the result we intended to have? Is gender equality maybe just a thing we do not look for in MUN world after all anyways.
A strict male chair, knowing the rules by hard and ensuring a great committee work is a strong leader.
A strict female chair, knowing the rules by hard and ensuring a great committee work is a bitchy dictator.
Maybe it is us. The big crowd. The team or the council that just can not help it, we can not get out of our skin, no matter how dressed up we may look, we do not leave our stereotypes behind when diving into the world of MUN in suits and dresses. Perhaps, our cultural background and the way our society at home is established reflects itself another time in what we experience in MUN world. I am personally this strict chair, I have repeatedly won the funny award of "becoming the next dictator" and I take pride rather than shame in it. Yes, boobs. But boobs make the rules, right?
Nevertheless, friends and I have wondered - would I get this splendid award equally much if I was a man? Or would I just be this badass chair or delegate who is simply very active and knows how to make a comprehensive and well-structured argument for his draft resolution?
And then the biggest honor in MUN world - becoming the Secretary-General of a conference. You do not only apply for this, it requires passion, courage, knowledge, contacts and last but not least, a certain sense for sticking out of the crowd.
I highly doubt that the first four characteristics are unequally spread, while the last one, at least in my case, have been observed quite frequently among my wonderful male friends. Maybe also because "sticking out of the crowd" is again connotated for many men as being a leader, for many female being a cry for attention from the rest of the world. I can not deny, sometimes I feel the exact same way. But why? Female leadership has proven to be a very desirable thing for corporations, where by now, the Western world has emerged to institute quotas and guidelines - is this the way to go for MUNs too? It is tricky and time-consuming enough to find a suitable candidate for the SG position, from an organizers perspective, gender should be the least of the problems. Being an SG is again about achievements and competence, and your gender determines neither.
Should we thus pay attention to such detail at all?
I think so. I think female empowerment can not be a only a part of our resolutions in the UN Women committee or the HRC, but it should be a guiding principle. And I am sure there is potential for improvement in MUN world. Females should not be patronized, certainly. Nevertheless, the way to the top can not be blocked with our outdated mindsets we adopted from our outdated societal backgrounds. We call ourselves leaders of change, future leaders and so much more. What I would propose is an open discussion about this, no naming and shaming but ways we could all just be a bit more reflexive about our decisions and our mindset before, during and after MUN when it comes to appointing our SGs and Chairs and how we can improve and train those leaders of change for the future, in which such a discussion is completely redundant.