A good woman is hard to find.
Good morning. This is working theology.
A raging debate in evangelical Christian circles right now focuses on women in leadership. Similarly, an important conversation in business right now is all about women in leadership. I wonder if these two arenas are related.
The debate in Christianity is over what theologians call “complementarianism” and “egalitarianism.” The former states that men and women have complementary but different roles to play in society, though they are equal in dignity and value. The latter states that men and women are fundamentally the same, and they should play the same roles in society, whether that’s parenting, pastoring, or executive leadership.
Complementarians get their stance from passages in the Bible like 1 Timothy 2:12, where Paul wrote to Timothy, “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet.” First and 2 Timothy are part of what’s known as the pastoral epistles, where Paul described the duties required of leaders of the church, and he was clearly writing to men.
I won’t go into all the details of the debate—you can read articles from Christianity Today on gender roles (and here and here), Crossway, or the writings of Dr. Sandra Glahn, an expert on gender and Christianity. Like everything else, some denominations and organizations are more conservative on this topic than others.
It’s important to note that women have had many important roles in the Bible and throughout church history that are often overlooked. A good place to start on that is Glahn’s Vindicating the Vixens.
However, I do want to show that this debate extends into the workplace in many ways. For instance, you may remember all the hoopla with the Google engineer’s memo or with YouTube videos of Jordan Peterson.
Many organizations are working hard to create a more diverse office environment, especially companies like Google and JPMorgan Chase. There’s even an entire diversity and inclusion (D&I) technology market.
McKinsey has conducted years of studies on gender parity. In a collaboration with LeanIn.org, they released a report last year called “Women in the Workplace.” They noted, “Companies report that they are highly committed to gender diversity. But that commitment has not translated into meaningful progress. The proportion of women at every level in corporate America has hardly changed. Progress isn’t just slow. It’s stalled.”
Here’s how the gender pipeline looks from entry level to the C-suite.
You can see that women represent only 23% of the C-suite while men represent 77%, with only 4% of women of color finding their way to executive leadership.
My initial hunch is that this is a carry-over from Christianity’s historical complementarian influence in the United States, but in fact the US has more diversity in executive leadership than many other parts of the world.
Consider this chart from another McKinsey study.
Some of these countries have been deeply affected by Christianity, while others have been affected more by other religious perspectives.
There’s certainly more to be said here regarding women in leadership in both the workplace and the worship-place. So, we’ll leave that for another day.
Thanks for reading.