New figures released today show a massive gender imbalance among speakers at major Christian conferences in the UK.
Compiled for the Project 3:28 group which campaigns for gender equality within the Church, the report provides statistics on the gender of speakers at more than 20 Christian conferences including Spring Harvest, Soul Survivor, New Wine and Word Alive.
Last year, two-thirds of conference speakers were men. However, the report compares figures from 2013 and 2014, concluding that there is an overall rise in equality of representation of nine per cent.
In 2014 the events with the most balanced speaker platforms were the Church and Media Conference and the Baptist Assembly at 50-50, Youthwork Summit at 54 per cent male and 46 per cent female and the Youthwork Conference at 57.5-42.5.
Bottom of the list was Keswick at 86-14; however, this represents an advance as Keswick had no female speakers at all in 2013.
The report points out that ranking events in percentage terms does not take account of their relative size – an event with only four speakers, one of whom is female, would score 25 per cent, for instance. It also notes that at One Event, held at the Lincolnshire Showground, of the six women who contributed to the event five did so in seminars with their husbands.
The report's compiler, Natalie Collins, told Christian Today: "We always have to look at the positives wherever we can. A rise is positive, but it will take a few years to see whether it's just the luck of the draw or whether event organisers are making real efforts."
She said that some conferences such as Soul Survivor and the Christian New Media Conference were intentional about aiming for a gender balance. A spokesman for the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Rev Ian Bunce, told Christian Today: "We have an intentional policy of bringing balance, though this is not just about gender but about age and ethnicity as well. Next year we will be putting younger people on the stage."
Collins added that a 'complementarian' theology, which restricts women to certain roles, was a factor for certain events. However, she said: "In most cases it's not theology, it just means that it's not prioritised as important by the organisers, who are mainly male."
Collins, a consultant who works in the field of gender equality, said that balance was important because it reflected God's intention at creation. "The full beauty of God's creation is lost if there's only one group of people on the platform.
"It is about representing God's people more effectively and showing that the gifting of men and women is of equal value."
She also stressed the importance of equal representation as an example to the next generation of women, saying: "You can't be what you can't see."
**This story was amended on 16 January 2015 to remove reference to Big Church Day Out as requested by the researchers. BCDO were included in the original research in error.