The Spiritual Landscape
Women Who Hate Women Who Lead
If your church hasn't experienced significant change in the number of women involved in leadership, or if women are largely absent from executive leadership roles, it may be time to move on. The opportunity cost may simply be too high.
If the numbers suggest better opportunities than that or if you decide to stay put—for whatever reason—then remember these tips:
One, lead on. Nothing takes the steam out of someone's objections like the calm, determined, consistent effort to lead. Don't be distracted by the people who want to drag you down.
Two, keep the needs of your church at the forefront of your efforts. Don't let your detractors make you the issue. Make the issues facing the organization the centerpiece of your leadership efforts. Staying mission-focused is a great antidote to personal animosity.
Three, avoid the temptation to "fix" the views that other women have of your work. You can't fix anyone and you are poorly placed to get through to people who see your life as a mirror for their own lives and choices.
Four, broaden your base. Stay connected as a leader with the members of your church who are positive and healthy souls, whether they are men and women. They are sure to be your allies, if times get tough.
Five, cultivate interests and relationships beyond the demands of your work. No matter how good the environment in which you work might be, spiritual balance and perspective requires cultivating interests that are broader and more life-giving than those associated with the work world. When people resist or sabotage your efforts, that breadth of involvement is that much more important, giving you activities and relationships you can affirm.
Sadly, none of these strategies promises that the fault-finding female colleagues will go away. Unfortunately, like their male counterparts in the "girls have cooties club," they are likely to be a part of the church for the foreseeable future. But you don't need to be trapped by someone else's sense of frustration and guilt. There are times when the best response spiritually is to repeatedly affirm the goodness of your gifts. Think Deborah from the Book of Judges; or Jael, out front, tent peg in hand; or Judith with Holofernes's sword, timid men to the rear.
You haven't begun to get assertive, Pam. As I've heard my female colleagues put it, "You go, girl!"
Frederick W. Schmidt is the author of The Dave Test: A Raw Look at Real Life in Hard Times (Abingdon Press: 2013) and several other books, including A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005) and Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009). He holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Job Institute for Spiritual formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and Consulting Editor at Church Publishing in New York. He and his wife, Natalie live in Chicago, Illinois. He can also be reached at: http://frederickwschmidt.com/