Gender challenges in the workplace: What can individuals, organizations, and churches do?

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[This post was originally delivered as a talk at the Faith@Work Summit in Dallas, TX. Read the first two posts in the series here and here.]

There are things you can do at an individual level. Women often have a hard time being assertive or taking credit for their accomplishments. If you’re a woman you especially need to do this, while at the same time being relational – expressing warmth to others and soliciting participation from others. If you’re a man, look for ways to acknowledge the accomplishments of women.

For men and women it’s important to expand your network in the workplace – and particularly to connect with people of the opposite gender from whom you can learn and to whom you can contribute. We know that men are more likely than women to have mentors in their organizations. Everyone should have someone that they look up to as a mentor. If you don’t have one, look for one.  If you’re in a leadership role, look for others whom you might be able to mentor – and look especially for women, because they are less likely to have the connections to those in positions of power.

If you are in a decision making role in a business or other organization, there are many things you can do to make your workplace more fair. One of the most important things you can do is become aware of your own subtle and unconscious biases. Remember, all of us – men and women – have biases. It is not because you are mean or because you are trying to be discriminatory. When we become aware of the ways in which our biases can impact our decision making, we start to become aware of ways to combat them.

If you are in a position of power, you can intentionally recruit women into leadership roles. Look for ways that women are contributing in your organization and reward this. And don’t stop with just one woman in leadership. Remember, the research shows that organizations with more women at the top have performance advantages.

If you are a pastor, or in a leadership role in a ministry organization, there are things you can do too. Make sure that when you are using examples of people expressing their faith at work that you provide examples of women. If you offer classes or small groups focused on vocation or business, make sure that these are available to everyone.

About 10 years ago I was at a Christian business breakfast where the speaker was sharing about his organization that developed small groups where Christian business professionals could support and encourage each other. This ministry was beginning to create groups in my city, and I was really excited to be a part of one. But when I asked the speaker after the breakfast, I was told that they only had groups for men.

Many churches do offer groups specifically for women. However, often these groups are focused exclusively on issues of family, or meet only during the day. But many women who work outside the home may not be able to meet during the day. These women may also be very interested in connecting with other women who are facing professional challenges. Do you create these opportunities?

If you are introducing new members to the church body, be sure to share with the congregation the specific gifts or occupations of each person. Match these gifts to needs within the church, regardless of gender. Invite men to work in the Children’s ministry and hospitality. Invite women to use their gifts in finance or in leading adult Sunday school programs.

Return with me to our opening exercise. This time, picture a young woman who is close to you – perhaps a daughter, granddaughter, or niece – being interviewed for a job. What are the words you hope come to mind when the interviewer considers her skills and talents? How do you want her capabilities to be evaluated or assessed?

It is clear that women particularly face unique challenges at work. All of us who have an interest in faith at work are responsible to understand and address these challenges. Together.

Male and female God created them–together.

God blessed them–together.

God called them to work–together.

Male and female, God wants us to flourish–together.

 

daniels-denise

Denise Daniels is professor of management at Seattle Pacific University.

 

 

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