What Can Be Done to Support Women at Work | CBE International

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What Can Be Done to Support Women at Work

A Biblical Proposal

In the academic world, the female evangelical is often absent.1 This absence is not due merely to lack of numbers, but also to a system that makes “male” the default for promotions, raises, leadership, and work style. Though I write from the academy, many of the same patterns and structures exist in any work setting. Because the historical structure of the workforce is well-established, turning the tide must be conscious, deliberate, and systematic. Here I offer five practical suggestions to help elevate women to positions of influence and leadership.

1. Women may choose to only marry a partner who is invested in equality. Or, they may choose to stay single.

Women’s life choices affect the trajectory of their careers. This does not give institutions a cop-out for sexism! Rather, I want to stress the liberty that women have, as directed by the Lord, to make decisions in accordance with their calling.

Having a spouse who is behind you and will work as a team with you is threaded throughout Scripture. Genesis even states that because the couple is a partnership, “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:23–25). In this case the man will uproot himself for the sake of his wife. In the modern world it may be the case that a husband defers to his wife’s career in order to support her. Scriptures also show the Lord calling a couple to the same path.

The apostle Paul claimed that the disciples had “the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas” (1 Cor. 9:5). Mutuality is the foundation of an egalitarian marriage and is also reflected in the work of Priscilla and Aquila, who worked in tandem for the Lord (Rom. 16:3). Egalitarian marriage or singleness lays the foundation for women to realize their potential at work.

2. Women may remain childfree.

The decision to have a child is one of the most serious considerations one makes in life. I believe that God either calls us to have children or does not, but it is not the default setting of a Christian marriage. The Bible paints a joyous, hopeful picture for childfree women and men. Jesus recognizes the kingdom calling for the childfree (Matt. 19:12). Isaiah promises an eternal legacy for those without children who work for the Lord (Isaiah 54:1, 56:4–5).

3. Women may opt to adopt a child or only agree to have children if the husband is willing to raise his kids equitably.

Scripture points to an egalitarian model of parenthood. If it is the case that God is calling a woman to be a mother, having a husband as a co-parent is the most decisive factor in workplace longevity, job security, and success.2

Adoption is perhaps the most bipartisan way to have kids, because there is no pregnancy or extended exodus from the workplace due to maternity leave. Further, there are thousands of children who need homes. James 1:27 tells us that “pure and undefiled religion before our Father is this: to look after orphans in their distress.”

If a couple has children, equal co-parenting from the beginning lays the foundation for lifelong career support. When men play an essential role in the home, women thrive in the marketplace.

4. Women should seek out mentors and sponsors in their field.

When entering or maintaining a career, a team of colleagues and co-workers are indispensable for support and connections.

Mentors are generally more experienced colleagues who can guide your career path and give advice. A great example of the mentor-protégé relationship was the apostle Paul and Timothy. Look at Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “I am giving you this command so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience” (1 Tim. 18–19).

Likewise, sponsors who advocate for women in the workplace—whether it is a letter of recommendation or passing on a grant opportunity—help women climb the corporate ladder. The story of Samuel, Eli and the Lord (1 Sam. 3:1–9) is a fascinating demonstration of a sponsor at work. Every woman needs a team of mentors and sponsors. These must be sought out and relationships nurtured.

5. We should all work to eliminate gender-based stereotyping.

Many people claim that only men can be breadwinners, work outside the home, and lead. Women are to stay at home, raise a family, and follow. Workplaces (especially Christian ones) often assume this will be the case, but the Scriptures do not assign vocational tasks based on sex. Both women and men were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27)  and we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).

One of the best ways to bolster women at work is to support men in the home. Equality is not merely adding women to the workforce. We must also add men to the homefront and dispel myths that your sex determines your vocational aptitude.

There are many obstacles women must hurdle to thrive in the workforce. Finding an equal partner in life and parenthood, locating sponsors and mentors, and defeating stereotypes takes wit, perseverance, and a network of support. Christians are not called to yield to society’s view of work and gender, but rather hold onto the promises of Scripture. Therefore, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom.12:2).

Notes

  1. Cristina Richie, “The Present and Future of the ETS: Women’s Involvement with the Society, the Journal, and Membership,” Missing Voices: Christians for Biblical Equality’s Annual ETS Journal (2014): 35-39. 
  2. Mary Ann Mason and Marc Goulden, “Marriage and Baby Blues: Re-defining Gender Equity,” presented at “‘Mommies’ and ‘Daddies’ on the ‘Fast Track’: Success of Parents in Demanding Professions conference, University of Pennsylvania, October 30, 2003.

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