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Friday, April 3, 2015

Two Problems With Women In Ministry

BALANCE is the great challenge of life. Always has been, always will be.
This is a factual generalisation that is compelling. There is nowhere near fifty percent of politicians, executives, and church leaders who are women. It is usually a figure closer to five percent. Men are apparently better leaders. But is that true? Of course it isn’t.
This cultural catastrophe causes two problems: 1) it prolongs the bias against women (and it’s a bias held not just by men) as key leaders and it makes it harder for good women leaders to assimilate, feel included and of value, and be effective; and 2) it tempts women leaders to overcompensate in the power struggle that should never be a power struggle (but then we will never live in a utopian world!). Part of the bias in the first point is men and women against women in key leadership may, themselves, unjustly goad a woman leader, where, if she were male, there would be no such impediment to her work. So, women leaders may need abundantly more humility and resilience than most men do, just to survive.
Both of these problems, it’s incredibly sad to say, work against the lobby for women in ministry.
I say upfront; women have a great deal to give in key leadership roles in every organisation. I worked as a public servant for an Authority for several years where the CEO was a woman. She led that organisation through much industrial reform in a tough, male dominated environment, for over fifteen years. The harshest thing she ever said about anyone was that they were “charmless.” She encountered the worst behaved trade union organisation and met their aggressive crudeness, scare tactics, and dirty strategies with an aplomb her male general managers were no less than inspired by. How do I know? I knew each one of these general managers personally and each one had communicated this to me without any compunction. I had also had the privilege seeing her in my direct observation, walking the talk in the field. Ms. Kerry Sanderson[1] had virtue every Christian would envy. She had a royal presence about her. It was no surprise to anyone at Fremantle Port Authority in Perth, Western Australia, when she was sworn in as Governor of Western Australia. She is a woman who commanded respect because of her undying respect of all persons regardless of who they were or weren’t. There was no spot nor wrinkle in her that could be observed. She was the best leader I’ve seen to date. And she is a woman!
This doesn’t mean that her strategy for governance were beyond improvement. Complexity was something she thrived on, but complexity can be the undoing of great organisations. Yet, even in driving too much too quickly, she was a model of diligence and vision!
My point is this: the best leaders have elevated scruples. Gender has nothing to offer the debate. But integrity is everything. And both of the problems I cite with women in ministry highlight a lack of scruples and integrity in both the men and women that proffer too much their overvalued opinions.
Men (and women) who decry women in leadership lack integrity. They refuse to see what God would have them possibly to see. They may, at times, frustrate or block the will of God. Conversely, the women who rule by fear by insisting control be seized, and that coercive and position power be used, rather than personal, service, and information power, also lack integrity.
Leadership is a matter of integrity — humility, courage, transparency, honesty, impartiality.
Leadership is a servant-hearted act of integrity.
***
Now that the two problems have been considered, what is required? Simply this: to stop even seeing gender as an issue, for we vacillate to and fro between the great poles of indifference otherwise.
The more people are selected for roles based on gifting, integrity, and merit — with commensurately no thought for gender — the better every organisation is.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.


[1] In October 1991, Sanderson was named acting general manager of Fremantle Ports,[5] a publicly owned state government trading enterprise (GTE) responsible for Fremantle Harbour and attached facilities in Cockburn Sound.[6] She was appointed chief executive officer (CEO) later that year, and was re-appointed for another five years in November 1997,[7] going on to continue in the position until October 2008.[8] As CEO, Sanderson was credited with "turning Australia's most inefficient port into its fastest", despite "prejudice against her gender, and the reputation of Australia's waterfront for being notoriously slack". She re-organised the company along total quality management principles and began charging fees based on cargo volume instead of time in port,[9] with the company subsequently going from a A$37-million loss in 1990–91 to a profit three years later. She also re-negotiated with maritime unions, decreasing the number of industrial awards from 29 to six.[10] Overall, Fremantle Ports more than tripled the value of its container throughput during Sanderson's time as CEO, with total movements (in tonnage) growing by 56 percent.[11] Her replacement as CEO was Chris Leatt-Hayter, who was previously general manager strategic and commercial development.[12]

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