Feb 12 (Reuters) - The University of Southern California on Thursday was set to see the election of its first female student body president in nearly 10 years, perhaps signaling a break in a trend that has highlighted the underrepresentation of women in high levels of student government at some U.S. universities.
Voting began on Tuesday and was set to conclude on Thursday in the race pitting two women candidates, Rini Sampath and Providence Ilisevich, against each other at the university in Los Angeles. Results were not available on Thursday evening.
A 2013 report released by American University in Washington, D.C., in a survey of 2,100 college students found that young women are less interested than men in running for office, with 63 percent of women saying they never thought about it compared with 43 percent of men.
The report's authors said a gender gap in U.S. politics was likely to continue "well into the future" and it recommended steps to encourage more young women to consider running for office.
The publication Inside Higher Ed last year reported that only one third of the top 100 colleges ranked by U.S. News and World Report had female student body presidents or equivalent executives.
USC last had a woman student body president in 2006, said Dan Schnur, executive director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the university.
"Political networks tend to be self-perpetuating and while I don't believe there has been overt gender discrimination or sexism, the leaders of student government, like the L.A. City Council and the U.S. Senate, tend to support people with whom they've built stronger relationships," Schnur said.
However, the prospect of a woman student body president has inspired students to become more engaged in this election, he said. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Leslie Adler)