All-female selective living group Illyria is working to strengthen its campus presence after its founding last semester.

Approved in April, Illyria focuses on empowering and establishing a safe space for female students. Juniors Lindsey Snyder, Ann Marie Guzzi and Lauren Anders created Illyria because of concerns about the inequalities women experience on campus. Guzzi explained that Illyria is providing female students with an alternative to Greek life.

“We wanted to create a space for women at Duke where we are fully empowered in all spheres of our life,” she wrote in an email. “There is a gendered power dynamic in the social scene at many colleges—especially those with Greek life.”

Snyder noted that while there are other campus organizations that help women academically and emotionally, such as Baldwin Scholars and the Women’s Center, Illyria serves a different function.

“[The founders] and many I’ve talked to have yet to see an organization that comprehensively kind of empowers the multifaceted women that are at Duke,” Snyder said.

As an SLG, Illyria can serve alcohol at its events, a right that is prohibited for sororities nationwide.

Snyder acknowledged the ability of sororities to empower its members but noted that “there’s just restrictions that inherently put women at a disadvantaged position.”

Guzzi stressed the importance of women fighting for gender equality in social spheres, noting that sexual assault rates drop when social events are hosted by women. She cited Dartmouth sorority Sigma Delta, which split from the national Sigma Kappa organization, as an example of “bringing the party into our own environment.”

The group is making a name for itself among undergraduates because of its unique offerings.

Senior Susie Xu compared Illyria to a female version of Wayne Manor, an all-male selective living group.

“I think it’s unfair that women aren’t allowed to serve their own alcohol [in sororities], because I think it does become dangerous,” she said. “By having control over what we can serve, that further protects [women].”

Julia Wohl, sophomore and vice president of outreach for Illyria, said that having the right to serve alcohol allows Illyria to offer a more complete college experience while being on the same playing field as fraternities or other SLGs.

Illyria currently has about 60 members, and half are also in sororities. Wohl explained that the girls’ experiences in sororities helped them to realize the need for a female space.

Since the start of the semester, Illyria has begun several initiatives, including a speaker series focusing on female empowerment.

On Tuesday, Stephanie Pickett, director of the Women's Center, discussed female leadership and gender disparity on campus.

“[Female communities] are an empowering environment…that will allow [women] to feel more comfortable and exercise greater responsibility," she said.

Pickett also spoke about the importance of challenging a male-dominant campus culture.

“[A female community] is incredibly important to develop community, to develop relationship, to develop purpose, to have some ownership of their own social scene in a way that’s often not afforded just based on the way this culture is set up,” Pickett said.

Illyria is also looking to collaborate with other organizations—such as the Baldwin Scholars, the Penny Pilgram George Women’s Leadership Initiative and Greek organizations—to extend its reach, Synder said.

She added that Illyria hopes to secure its own housing block for the 2017 Fall semester, and Wohl noted that the SLG wants to increase its diversity.

“I think our reputation still hasn't been set yet,” Guzzi wrote. “I hope that years down the road, people know Illyria as a group of strong, motivated and accepting women who actively help bring together all aspects of the feminine identity, and change the general perception of what it means to be a feminist.”