From Halee Gray Scott:
But rivalry among females is not limited to sexuality. Sometimes our negative reactions towards other women are much more subtle. Anytime there is scarcity, there is a potential for derogatory attitudes that undermine the potential achievements of women, and nowhere is the principle of scarcity more at play than in Christian ministries and organizations.
According to a report published by the White House Project, a nonprofit promoting women in business and politics: “Although women constitute over a majority of churchgoers (60 percent), men continue to dominate leadership roles in the church,” with women making up only 15 percent of Protestant clergy.” So does the scarcity of leadership roles in Christian ministry and organizations lead to catfighting among Christian women?
Maybe. Given the enormous strides made by women in the past century, the lack of research on Christian women is appalling if not embarrassing. But the study I conducted last year among Christian men and women serving in Christian parachurch organizations points to, at a minimum, some relational tension between Christian women.
In contrast to the majority of studies of this kind, Christian women were perceived to be more “communal” than “successful leaders” or “successful female leaders.” But they were rated as less likely to demonstrate certain relationship-oriented qualities, including compassion, fairness, good listening skills, inclusiveness, intuitiveness, sociability, and understanding.
Further, women differed from successful leaders in every single category, rating lower in characteristics such as ambition, analytical ability, assertiveness, self-confidence, competence, independence, intelligence, considerate, encouraging, inspiring, and trustworthiness.
These results suggest, first, that there seems to be some sort of relational tension among Christian women. Whether women actually demonstrate less relational qualities or they exhibit qualities that undermine relational qualities is unclear. However, in previous studies, women have usually scored higher on relationship-oriented qualities than any other group. But in this case, the data seems to support Vaillancourt’s suspicion that women may not be as “pleasant” to one another as our reputation purports.
Second, Christian women don’t have high opinions of other Christian women. In layman’s terms, we don’t have each other’s back. In the Christian world, most of our attention has been focused on how men, as institutional gatekeepers, have prevented women from assuming leadership positions. But even we don’t see other women as having what it takes to be a successful leader. So how might that make us feel about Christian women leaders who defy that expectation? How would that attitude shape how female Christian leaders feel about other women?