The Perception Obstacle for Women Pursuing Leadership in Evangelical Workplaces – An Interview

Here is the beginning of an interview in Christianity Today, on a hotly debated issue in evangelical circles all over the world. The occasion was a recent doctoral study conducted by Halee Gray Scott at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. The interviewer is Her.meneutics contributor Karen Swallow Prior.

* * *

What is missing from research on Christian women leaders?

There are books that fall into the theological debate camp, anecdotal books about a specific woman’s experiences as a Christian leader, and books that cover biblical women leaders, but there was no comprehensive literature that targets the women serving in leadership positions in our churches and in Christian parachurch organizations today. So women everywhere—from my students to female vice-presidents to female pastors—are wondering where the maps are. The younger women are wondering if it is possible to be a woman leader; the women leading are wondering how to navigate the tough terrain. I wanted to start drawing a map.

Why are perceptions so important?

Most of the research that has been done in the last 30 years (which has not considered evangelical institutions specifically) shows that the way we think about leaders and the way we think about women are very different, a huge obstacle for women to overcome. If women demonstrate qualities that are typically associated with being a good leader—such as assertiveness and confidence—they cease to be viewed as “good” women—who we expect to be nurturing and supportive. Our perceptions are important aspects of reality. Although we do see imperfectly, or dimly, we do still see, and what we see is important in our decision-making process. I wanted to know if people’s perceptions about women might be holding them back from more leadership opportunities.

Read HERE the entire article.


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