Most commonly known as an author and researcher, Halee Gray Scott (PhD) also teaches seminary courses, is married and has two daughters. Her writing has appeared in Christianity Today, Christian Education Journal, Books and Culture, Gifted for Leadership, and Breakfast Reading. In 2014, her book Dare Mighty Things: Mapping the Challenges of Leadership for Christian Women was released by Zondervan. She is an advocate for living each day to the fullest as she believes too many people can’t seem to get past the disappointments and heartbreaks in life. As she states on her website (hgscott.com), “I write about living well because I believe we have enough monsters in the world and not enough heroes.”
Lexi Friesen: How did advocating for women’s leadership become a passion of yours?
HALEE GRAY SCOTT: I was teaching and working as a librarian for Azusa Pacific University. This is where I met a young woman, a student, who was paying for her own tuition because her father wouldn’t pay for a Christian college, working, and wanting to be a part of leadership. She was so discouraged and told me that all the books she was reading about Christian women in leadership only had “fluff.” She wanted something tangible and pertinent to her situation. I thought to myself, “I can help her. I can make a difference!”
LF: What were some of the most surprising and amazing things that you learned while researching and writing your book Dare Mighty Things?
HGS: The most surprising thing I saw was how many women there are doing tremendous work and how their stories aren’t being told. When we think about people who start non-profits or pastors or leaders of mission trips, we think about male leadership first. Leadership is about giftedness, though! For example, there is a girl named Emily who lives in Kenya. She wanted to help different tribes build wells so that they could have clean drinking water. Through this, she met two tribes who were at war with one another. She wanted to help them get water and she wanted to establish a leadership school so that both tribes could have better leaders. She brought the current leaders of the tribe together and told them how she wanted to help but she said she would only help if they signed a peace treaty with one another. In doing that, she helped create peace among two African tribes whose war was over water! It’s important that people hear that story, as well as other women’s stories, so that women can have a vision and see what is possible for their own selves to accomplish!
LF: For those who haven’t read your book Dare Mighty Things, can you give a short synopsis of what the book is about?
HGS: The core purpose of this book is to get people connected to what God wants us to do. It’s tempting to give up, especially for women, and I’ve talked to a lot of women who have come across obstacle after obstacle and begin to wonder if this is the path that God wants them to be on. Christian leaders are going to run into walls all the time but it requires great faith in God to persevere. I point out a lot of common obstacles in this book that people have had and while they may seem negative, these trials are really just opportunities for people to grow! We are only given a sliver of time here on earth and I want to help women pursue their goals because it can be so easy to get distracted.
LF: What are some of the biggest obstacles that women have had to overcome?
HGS: One of the biggest obstacles women have run into and still continue to face is the perception that many people have of women in leadership. People need to recognize that women are gifted in leadership. We need to proactively realize that women are leaders, too! It’s being perceived as otherwise for a lot of different reasons but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we don’t know women’s stories and we aren’t searching for them either—women in leadership is not an issue that is constantly in our faces so we choose to see only what we want to see.
There is a YouTube video with some people dressed in black clothing and some people dressed in white clothing; both groups are making passes with a basketball among their own groups. The video’s instructions are to count how many passes the white team makes. In the middle of the video, a gorilla comes dancing through the group and pounds its chest, but almost no one sees it because they are too focused on the passing of the white team!
There is a myth that surrounds the extraordinary woman—we have an ideal in our head and the Christian women in leadership are the exception to the rule. I went with my mentor to a conference where she was the keynote speaker and spoke for five hours without notes. I wanted to give up after listening to her because I thought she was the exception and that I would never be able to do something like that. It is a myth that keeps so many women from pursuing leadership!
LF: What are a few things that men, churches, and other organizations can do to equip women to lead?
HGS: I would just like to restate what I said before—it is all about perception and where our focus is at. Ephesians 4 states that the gifts that God gave were to human kind—equal leadership—and as a church and a community we need to tap into everyone’s gifts because that is how God fashioned them as a person and the world to function. God gave people gifts and God’s gift to the church, and the world, are all of his people! Men and women need to learn to work together, and that’s easier said than done, since we live in such a sexually fostered culture and as Christians we want to remain sexually pure.
LF: How do you implement ideas of women as leaders in your own family?
HGS: My two girls are still quite young yet, but there is still such an important role that parents play. I always say that I want my children to be confident, kind, and brave! I think that those are some of the most important traits for leadership. You need to have self-confidence, yes, but we really need to focus on God and what he can accomplish—it’s really more of a God-confidence that we need to have! God can achieve far greater things through me than I could have imagined for myself. My daughter, Ellie, is kind of a worrier, so I have this rule with her that I always say, “Don’t be nervous unless Mommy is nervous!”
I want my children to be kind—I want them to pay attention closely to people and the issues around them. Kindness sees that something needs to be done and makes sure you act on other people’s behalf and not for yourself. Confidence, then, is what enables you to do the action you’ve seen because of your kindness.
The last thing is brave. My three year old will go hiking with me and there are some trails that skirt a deep ravine with moving water at the bottom. She’s still young so she gets a little scared but I always tell her how brave she is—it’s gotten to the point now where she said to me the other day, “Mommy, I did it—I’m so brave!” I want my daughters to have courage because so many times we will get rejected in this world and we need to be brave to move forward. These are all traits that I can tell my daughters about everyday but they need to first see these traits in me.
LF: Do you have any final thoughts or anything you’d like readers to know about you or your book?
HGS: I want to encourage all people to talk to other women leaders, to ask them questions, and to listen to their stories. I am starting to launch Dare Mighty Things groups so that women can go through the books together in community; so that they can go through obstacles as a community. Too often Christian women leaders get very isolated and we need to be surrounded by other women to talk to and to support one another. We need each other. I’ve always grown more in my life when I have had a group around me giving support and challenging me.