This op-ed by Jessica Grose in yesterday’s New York Times rings true for many clergywomen – and many professional women in general. In referring to disgraced former billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried and his casual clothing style, Grose writes:
Every time I read the news and see Bankman-Fried’s unkempt visage, I’m filled with just a little bit more rage, because I know — women know — that investors would never entrust a young woman looking this sloppy with a single cent, much less billions …
Women of every age are treated differently from men, and by different, I’m not talking about general gender norms. I’m talking about how seriously we are considered in terms of our gifts and skills compared to men. What I am not saying: that women are always discounted. What I am saying: that women are often discounted. This happens at every age.
I remember the very first benediction I proclaimed on my first Sunday in my first church after ordination and in that breath between the Amen of the last verse of the last hymn and my first benedictory word, I heard one church member stage-whisper to another church member, “She can’t be a day over 16.” (I was 28.) Twenty years later I was identified by two young colleagues as a crone. I was 48. (For the record, they told me it was a compliment.)
In spite of what Lauren Pasquarella Daley says in Grose’s article, I believe that it’s not only possible for leaders of all genders to be both competent and likable, the most effective leaders actually are both. Excellent 21st Century leaders are emotionally intelligent, authentic, trustworthy, and capable. It frankly doesn’t matter if you are male, female, nonbinary, single or married, with or without children, or of whatever age.
And yet, I just yesterday talked with a young clergywoman who shared her experiences of being a young pastor who happens to have children and how hard it has been to be taken seriously as a competent professional minister. As a 60-something clergywoman, I have experienced – more than once – a male pastor explaining the sermon I had just preached to his congregation as if I hadn’t been clear.
Folks, it happens every day. And yet . . .
Those who discount anybody whom God calls to serve in whatever profession, in whatever kind of body are the ones missing out. God is up to something. I see it where I serve in Charlotte. I see it in our neighboring towns and in rural communities. I see it via friends in Chicago and D.C. and San Francisco. God is calling competent and likeable leaders who might be called babes or hags or something in between. Whatever. God is doing a new thing. God is using us all for more than an hour – or even a season.
Let’s stop judging each other based on age. We are the ones losing out when we confuse age (or gender) with effectiveness.
Image is from the July 2016 Conference of The Young Clergy Women Project, Boston University taken by Sarah Hooker and used with permission. Read more about the YCWP here.