Building Organisational and Denominational Systems that Empower Women
How every organization can grow a positive and empowering culture so women can flourish!
Despite many Christian organizations supporting women theologically, we continue to see women struggling to be released into ministry. In order to fully support women to live into their God-given calling I think there are five things that organizations and denominations can do to better support women in these spaces.
#1 Develop a Coaching Program for Women
Getting every woman a coach is a minimum starting point. It aids in overcoming limiting self-perceptions, and traps such as those Kate Coleman helpful highlights in her great book "The 7 Deadly Sins of Women in Leadership." This space helps women to establish healthy boundaries, engage well in conflict as needed, and process external challenges they face. It is also a key way to help women develop a clear personal vision. Personal vision drives women to have the confidence to put themselves forward for opportunities and gives them the confidence to stand when others might downplay or doubt their abilities.
#2 Develop Cohorts of Female Leaders
In Christian ministry, women can sometimes feel isolated and be surrounded by men who struggle to understand the mental load women carry (It's real! Read more here) Providing cohorts for women in leadership provides examples, both of peers and leaders, increasing a woman's inner circle and support options. It also tends to increase women's exposure as women often recommend other women (but not themselves) for new opportunities. Cohorts can also help keep women connected through times out of ministry due to life stages or other challenges. The Company is an organisation supporting women in church planting that are using a cohort approach to support women stepping into this space.
#3 Create environments of Psychological Safety
Amy Edmonson researched teams and found that psychological safety is the greatest predictor of effective teams. Google mimicked her research and found the same thing! Women have been found to be more sensitive to psychological safety than men. Psychologically safe people are self-aware people, so seek to grow your own self-awareness if you want to create safe spaces! I recommend Insight by Tasha Eurich. Beware of jokes, banter, and language that diminishes psychological safety, and actively create spaces for women to speak and be heard, without being spoken over. This can happen at local levels of churches and teams, but also at larger organizational and denominational gatherings.
#4 Address Systemic Barriers in your organization
There are a few things you can do to address barriers in your organization that you may not be aware of. Firstly, ask women to review systems that you have set up in your organization, in pairs at a minimum, even better through focus groups of women facilitated by an external person. Secondly, ensure there are women in senior leadership that younger women can speak to and raise issues with. It's even better if your senior women are known for their work supporting other women! Thirdly, ensure all gatherings and networks are accessible to women and implement changes to make them accessible if needed, consider adding childcare options! Part of accessibility is reviewing who you are placing on platforms, committees, and other spaces for accessibility and representation. Finally, review your organizational theology around women in leadership and publish it clearly. Clear is kind, and doing this will also promote psychological safety.
#5 Become a Sponsor for Women in Leadership
Finally, become a sponsor for women. Be an organization that advocates for women and speaks publically and regularly about women in your organization who are doing great things, as well as highlighting women outside of your organization who align well with your goals! Be an organization known for putting women's names forward for conferences, positions, or other opportunities. Financially sponsor women to receive training or coaching. become known for your support and advocacy for women.
What else would you add to this list? If you have an organization you think lives these out well let me know! I would love to hear more about them and highlight their work!
This content was presented in September 2022 for the Anglican Movement, Wellington.