Stained glass ceiling still in place for women

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The Committee on the Status of Women has issued a news release noting their concerns about the Called to Serve Survey Report and plan to develop a “Search Toolkit” for women clergy and search committees:

During the February 9-1, 2011, meeting of the Executive Council’s Committee on the Status of Women in Burlingame, California, members considered how The Episcopal Church might respond, through new policies and educational efforts, to the Called to Serve Survey Report that examines career patterns, constraints, and overall welfare and wellness of clergy women. Based on data collected during the 2006-2009 triennium, the report has been a collaborative effort of the committee, the Church Pension Fund’s Office of Research, the Episcopal Church Center’s Office of Women’s Ministry, and CREDO Institute, Inc.

“I sorely wish I could say that there has been great progress for women in the almost 40 years women have been ordained priests, but if the Called to Serve report shows us anything, it’s that we still have a long way to go,” said Cynthia Black, Chair of the Committee on the Status of Women, and a priest in the Diocese of Minnesota.

In response to these realities so starkly illustrated by the Called to Serve data, the committee is working to develop a Search Toolkit for Women and Search Committees, in partnership with others, to help combat some of the age-old and often subtle forms of discrimination women encounter.

“Historically, women may not have had the skills to negotiate compensation packages,” said Helena Mbele-Mbong, a lay member of the committee from the Convocation of Churches in Europe. “Given that across the board, clergywomen make about 20 percent less than clergymen, it’s time we equip women with the resources necessary to address this inequality.”

The toolkit resource will include articles and strategies for negotiating contracts, discerning a “good fit”, interviewing and understanding the Transition Ministry Office’s new profiles for clergy and search committees. “It’s a first step,” said Black. “Women who are job hunting today still face many of the same hurdles we did twenty-five years ago.”

Complete news release below:

For Immediate Release

COMMITTEE ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN CONCERNED ABOUT LACK OF PROGRESS FOR WOMEN IN THE CHURCH

During the February 9-1, 2011, meeting of the Executive Council’s Committee on the Status of Women in Burlingame, California, members considered how The Episcopal Church might respond, through new policies and educational efforts, to the Called to Serve Survey Report that examines career patterns, constraints, and overall welfare and wellness of clergy women. Based on data collected during the 2006-2009 triennium, the report has been a collaborative effort of the committee, the Church Pension Fund’s Office of Research, the Episcopal Church Center’s Office of Women’s Ministry, and CREDO Institute, Inc.

“I sorely wish I could say that there has been great progress for women in the almost 40 years women have been ordained priests, but if the Called to Serve report shows us anything, it’s that we still have a long way to go,” said Cynthia Black, Chair of the Committee on the Status of Women, and a priest in the Diocese of Minnesota.

In examining the Called to Serve report, the committee noted consistent, long-term gender gaps in ordained men’s and women’s leadership in the church. Gender gap disparities persist in compensation, full-time employment, whether clergy have ever held rector or vicar positions, those who have applied for rectorships but have not been called, and in perceived ease in finding a suitable paid position in the church.

“Broadly speaking, men appear to make about 20% more in compensation on average and are still more likely to be employed fulltime,” said Karen Longenecker, a lay woman from the Diocese of the Rio Grande. “Men are more readily called to serve as a rector or vicar, and men believe overwhelmingly, much more so than women, that they’ll find a suitable paid position in the church.”

The Called to Serve report also provides evidence that men are more likely to lead larger parishes; women are 25% more likely to seek these positions and not be called. Meanwhile, women are much more likely to be found in associate, part-time, chaplaincy, and non-stipendiary positions. Women clergy also are more likely to be constrained by the inability to geographically relocate.

“These data beg a number of questions: How are we encouraging and mentoring young women for leadership in the church? How is their call being fostered?” asked Yejide Peters, a young priest in the Diocese of New York.

As part of their gathering, the committee spent an evening with women clergy in the San Francisco Bay area who confirmed their own personal experiences of disparities in job attainment, noting that their male peers from seminary have had a much easier time finding full-time jobs. “They are on what I call the Diamond Lane.” one priest said. “Woosh, they go by, and my hair blows back. I am on the Frontage Road.”

An implication of the differences in attainment is that women’s participation in the councils of the Church, and thus the fulfillment of their ordination vows, may be unjustly constrained. The right to vote at many diocesan conventions, for example, depends on canonical residence, defined by a priest’s diocese of ordination or, should a priest move to a new diocese, a letter dimissory. The canons of the Episcopal Church only require a diocese to accept a letter dimissory for a priest who is being called to lead a parish. Many dioceses choose not to offer canonical residence to priests with part-time, associate or non-parochial ministries or to require a waiting period of several years.

The committee is looking closely at the issue of canonical residence, both with respect to how the canons affect the voice and vote of women and within the context of changing models of ministry in the church. “In the twenty-first century, an increasing number of clergy, women and men, may pursue creative, non-traditional ministries,” noted Jeanne Person, a priest who serves as the Director of the Center for Christian Spirituality at the General Theological Seminary. “At a time when traditional models of career paths and ministries are in transformation, we need to ensure that both women and men feel encouraged and supported.”

The Called to Serve report also examines women’s participation in high-level leadership such as episcopal elections, revealing that women have been less likely than men to enter search processes. Since the elections in 2009 of Diane Bruce and Mary Glasspool as bishops suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles, a woman has not been elected to the episcopate. In 2010, less then half of the episcopal elections included a woman among the final candidates. Meanwhile, several bishops who are women have in recent years retired or announced their retirements. At present, less than 3% of diocesan bishops are women. The Called to Serve report further suggests, therefore, a strong need for focused leadership development to encourage women clergy toward discernment and entering search and election processes.

In response to these realities so starkly illustrated by the Called to Serve data, the committee is working to develop a Search Toolkit for Women and Search Committees, in partnership with others, to help combat some of the age-old and often subtle forms of discrimination women encounter.

“Historically, women may not have had the skills to negotiate compensation packages,” said Helena Mbele-Mbong, a lay member of the committee from the Convocation of Churches in Europe. “Given that across the board, clergywomen make about 20 percent less than clergymen, it’s time we equip women with the resources necessary to address this inequality.”

The toolkit resource will include articles and strategies for negotiating contracts, discerning a “good fit”, interviewing and understanding the Transition Ministry Office’s new profiles for clergy and search committees. “It’s a first step,” said Black. “Women who are job hunting today still face many of the same hurdles we did twenty-five years ago.”

In other work, the committee is also supporting the Beijing Circles and WordsMatter programs and considering resolutions that address canonical residency, statelessness, gender violence, and media exploitation.

The committee was formed in 1985 to advise the Presiding Bishop on matters affecting the participation of women in the Church, to advocate for women’s ministries and to raise awareness about justice issues that particularly affect women.

# # #

For further information contact:

The Rev. Cynthia Black

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John B. Chilton
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John B. Chilton

The post

https://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/episcopal_church/parish_family_present_predomin.html

highlighted the conclusions of the Called to Serve report, and drew some useful insights.

The letter could be a little more blunt about the primary locus of discrimination based purely on gender. It lies at the parish level. Many parishes will not call a woman simply because of tradition, or they apply different standards if they do. This comes out of the report.

And the letter could be a bit more self-reflective about the reasons for labor market that are not due to bias. It has to do with family and gender roles at home. Report points out this part of further study that is planned. How much the differences come from the desire of women for a call that is not the conventional full time call with ill defined boundaries between work and home? Let's be upfront that not all differences in outcomes is driven by the those who make the calls.

The point about rethinking the residency canons is a good one. As they are they tend to reinforce the unhealthy work-a-holic model of parish priest that parishes have come to expect. And as long as women make healthier choices for themselves, and their families, their voices will be diminished in the councils of the church.

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