Portrait by Dan Williams
A former seminary president recently asked me about new executive leaders, specifically the scarcity of women in our “Changing Scenes” section. The question sent me to our archives, and I realized that it has been a year since we’ve shared an announcement of a woman called to leadership. And that was for an interim role.
This was not the first time the subject has been raised. We cover those who have been called. So the question is: Where are the women in leadership?
According to current data provided by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), women currently serve as executive leaders at 13 percent of ATS schools. That’s down from an all-time high of 14 percent last year.
In 2017, ATS published Women in ATS schools: 8 data points for conversation, a paper which invited discussion at schools that aspire to “greater representation and success of women among its students, faculty, or administrators.” The authors suggested some questions for consideration, including: How are women represented among our students, faculty, and administration? What are our aspirations and potential impediments in meeting them? What would need to change to reach aspirational goals?
Some religious traditions do not allow women to serve at the executive level. Yet among schools without those restrictions, there continue to be challenges with recruitment, promotion, and institutional support. There simply are fewer women being tapped for leadership.
At a time when leadership transitions among ATS schools are at an all-time high (over 180 new chief executive and chief academic officers have been appointed in the past two years, and some 400 within the past five years), it is worth exploring the reasons why. This time of turbulence invites evaluation and discernment. Executive leaders and boards might consider close examination of the pipeline for those who are called; a review of search practices, leadership development, and cultivation; and careful assessment of institutional culture.
In short, it may be time to take another look at the glass ceiling – as well as the glass cliff.
Over the next year, In Trust will dig into issues and trends related to women in leadership. If you’d like to share your story, idea, or comment I would love to hear from you – women and men alike.
I’m curious to hear what you have to say. Let me know.
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