In light of our upcoming Campus Women Lead summit in partnership with Running Start, we are profiling spectacular women student body presidents around the country!
At just 18 years old, Allyson Carpenter was elected to serve as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the District of Columbia, making her the youngest elected official in the history of the nation’s capital. After completing her two-year term on the ANC, Carpenter went on to run for Howard University Student Association President.
“People asked me why I would come back to SGA after I did local government, but I looked at SGA as a progression. Student government has the ability to shift campus attitudes and priorities,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter would make history once again, this time in her student government election.
“This is the first time two women have ever served as [Student Body] President and Vice President in Howard’s history,” she said. “I believe I am the 7th or 8th woman who has served as president. We’ve been here for 150 years, and women are the majority population on campus.”
Carpenter believes the lack of women in executive student government positions plagues college campuses across the nation. She credits women empowerment organizations for helping her tackle the issue at Howard.
“Running Start is the best weapon we have against misogyny on campus. AAUW and Running Start do a great job of coming and educating people. We have had the Elect Her training program here. And this year, Mayor Bowser will come and speak to our girls,” she said.
But, Carpenter understands in order to make further progress, the conversation must include men.
“So many men take this movement as an insult to them. We need to spread the message that just because we want more women in leadership roles is not a criticism of their ability to represent women. It is still necessary to have women represented at the highest positions,” she said.
Carpenter took her passion for women’s rights one step further, playing the role of a key organizer of the recent Women’s March on Washington. She recalls the planning process with exuberance.
“Women are amazing. I think I realized that every single day when I was involved with the march. We had our daily calls at 11 am, and it was so incredible to see how we worked together and support each other and how much we could get done together,” Carpenter said. “The women’s march was something that was for us by us. It was so beautiful to see so many different groups represented — we had every type of woman that you could think of.”
As far as next steps from the march, Carpenter encourages more women to get involved in community politics, as she once did.
“I hope that women go back home and look at their local communities. I hope those women look at their school boards, community boards, PTSAs and they ask themselves what they can do to make any amount of change to affect the communities they are in. It has to start there. It has to be at the grassroots level,” she said.
She emphasized that gender should not hold anyone back from running for these positions.
“Up until the day that I was elected, I was so afraid. I thought I was going to lose — but then I remembered the number of women whose voices would have been lost, the number of people who I would not have been able to help, the number of people who would not be taken seriously if no one stood up for them,” Carpenter said. “I would have felt a sense of guilt that I would have fought for those people but I let my gender keep me out of the race. There is someone somewhere whose future depends on you. All they are counting on is for you to step up.”
In February, Carpenter will present at Campus Women Lead, a program cohosted by NCLC and Running Start designed to celebrate the work of women student body presidents and inspire more women to run. There is still time to register for the Campus Women Lead summit! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and you, too, can gain the tools to become a more effective woman student body leader.