Study Finds Female Pastors are on a Slow and Steady Rise

Pearl / Light Stock

“Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good,” stated Charlotte Elizabeth Whitton, the first female mayor of a major Canadian city.

Female leaders have experienced this firsthand for decades, and Whitton’s observation has been validated not only through personal experiences but also through study after study finding women must work harder to get hired, promoted, or named to leadership positions.

We expect a lot from women—to the point of perfection.

In its recent State of Pastors report, the Barna Group compiled findings from five different sources in addition to their own research to prompt leaders “to examine the support systems that surround pastors and imagine ways to strengthen those who serve today—and more adequately prepare the generation of pastors who will serve tomorrow.”

One trend the Barna Group noted is the slow and steady rise of female pastors. One of every 11 Protestant pastors is a woman—triple as many as 25 years ago—yet women often lead smaller congregations than men.

Though most pastors, regardless of gender, are satisfied with their role, female pastors are more likely than male pastors to wish they had been more prepared for the expectation they “must do everything” and must do it “perfectly.”

Further, the Barna Group found that female pastors are more likely than male pastors to report that congregants’ comments on their leadership were “critical,” “judging,” and “unhelpful.”

The researchers suggested that these results might be explained by the fact that women, who tend to serve smaller churches, have closer contact with congregants; by the fact they feel more pressure than men to “do everything” or attain “perfection;” or by the “existential pressure women pastors experience.”

Without further investigation, it’s impossible to know how much each of these elements factor into congregants’ criticism, but it’s helpful to consider how Barna’s results fit within the broader body of literature exploring perceptions of women leaders.

For more than four decades, both men and women consistently rate female leaders more harshly. Men, who far outnumber women in corporate leadership, view female leaders as less capable at problem solving—a key leadership competency—and because of this, they also view female leaders as less inspiring and less capable at team building. Women themselves believed male leaders to be superior to women in influencing upward, delegating, and even networking, a trait usually considered more feminine. These perceptions remain consistent in both secular and nonprofit Christian settings.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Christianity Today
Halee Gray Scott