[Note: I am a white clergywoman.]
Back in the 2012 election, one presidential candidate mentioned in a debate that when he was governor, he sought out female leaders to appoint to his cabinet. When only male applicants had applied, he approached women’s groups who provided “binders full of women” for the governor to consider. See this for a refresher.
For the record, I also have binders of women. Actually they are PDFs in a computer file.
I collect the dossiers of exceptional women because we still live in a world in which male pastors are favored. I have nothing against male pastors. But I admit before you and God that I have a special place in my heart for clergywomen and specifically for clergywomen of color for the sake of justice.
Last week I came across this article: Why the Gender Leadership Gap Is So Much Worse for Women of Color. We know this story – or we should. “There are more women working today than ever before (55% of the total global workforce). Women earn the majority of university degrees according to data from Census reports”
“Yet female leadership numbers remain dismal. For women of color, this gap is even wider.”
So here’s what really struck me: ” . . . this is not a pipeline problem.” Apparently, in the secular world, there are many women of color in “the pipeline.” They are well educated and talented; they just don’t get the interviews or the jobs.
I don’t think this is the situation in Church World. Women – and specifically women of color – still do not get the interviews or the jobs sometimes. But I don’t think we have a huge number of women of color “in the pipeline.” Please correct me if I’m mistaken.
- How many women of color are under care of our denominations in preparation for ordination (in denominations that ordain women)?
- How many women of color are in the Master of Divinity programs of our seminaries and divinity schools?
- How many of our girls of color are encouraged by their church leaders to consider professional ministry as a vocation?
In 2012 26% of the clergy in my denomination were female. Of those 7% were women of color. But here’s the thing: the African American, Asian American, and Latina clergywomen I know are among the finest pastors in the Church today. They are profoundly gifted. Why aren’t there more women of color serving our congregations?
In my experience as a person who works with congregations, some of our racial- ethnic churches will not will not interview women at all and many of our predominantly white churches will not interview women of color.
Although I have hope that this will change in the future, some of us in leadership positions can make a difference now. There’s more we can do besides collect binders.
- We can invite women of color to informational interviews so that we know them and can encourage them to apply to openings (while also encouraging search committees to consider them)
- We can take note of women of color who are in leadership in their congregations and talk with them about seminary.
- We can become familiar with women of color in our and in other denominations and keep them in mind when asked to suggest names to Pastor Nominating Committees.
Why do I suggest these things? It’s not to fulfill quotas or give special breaks. It’s to give talented leaders who are often overlooked a fair chance. And frankly, it’s selfish: we in the Church are missing out when the best leaders are not considered and – many times – the best leaders are clergywomen of color.
P.S. We who have ecclesiastical power are called to open the doors for all people who are called by God. There are many LBGTQ clergy or potential clergy who – also – do not have it easy in the call process. More about that later.