No Women Speakers At Your Christian Event? Here's How That Could Change
A month ago Jon Holmes made front page news after he told the world he was a victim of equality. His contract as a writer for the Now Show had not been renewed, Holmes claimed, because he was a white man.
This week, a month later, another story has barely made the news online, never mind the front page of a newspaper. Culture secretary Karen Bradley has rejected a woman from a minority ethnic background as a board member for Channel 4 while accepting the appointment of four white men. The board will remain full of white people, only three of whom are women.
Equal representation is a sore subject for many. Some, like Holmes, think it is a sign of "political correctness gone mad", causing white men who are good at their jobs to be sacked. For others the pain is in there being few, or no, people like them in positions of influence and power. Yet it is Holmes' story that makes it to the front page of the newspaper.
Pleas for a meritocracy are always part of the debate around equal representation. "Surely it should always be about who is the best person for the job? Not their sex or skin colour!" However, such an argument suggests that so far, the best people at jobs that are well paid and influential are white men. If we can't stomach such an idea (and plenty of people can) then we must begin asking: if women and people from minority ethnic backgrounds might be the best people for the job, why are they so much less likely to be employed in positions of power? And if they are, why might they not be paid the same as a man for doing it?
As Christians, we believe there is "neither Jew nor gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Yet, our organisational boards rarely differ in representation from the Channel 4 board. Of course some Christians hold to complementarian theology which requires different callings for men and women. But many don't, and those organisations rarely look different to those who do.
I've been working with Project 3:28 for the last few years, collecting data on the number of women and men speaking at national Christian events. We've seen a gradual improvement, yet women still make up just 34 per cent of those speaking at a national level, even though usually more women than men attend these events.
Genesis 5:2 tells us that God created us male and female, but this isn't reflected in the representation of women on Christian platforms. How are we able partner with God in building a church and a kingdom that represents God if half of who he made us to be are not fully represented throughout Christian life? That goes for men too, in relation to caring for children and elderly people, pastoral support and the menial jobs mainly done by women. Across Christian culture we need to see women and men enabled to take active roles in all areas of life.
To this end, Project 3:28 are excited to be creating a new resource for event organisers and Christian women who are called to public speaking. Due to a generous donation we are more than halfway to funding an online speakers' database. It will be professionally developed and in due course we will invite women to become part of the database. Event organisers have told us they struggle to find women able to contribute to their events and we are in the process of changing that in a very practical way. If you would like to partner with us in making change, you can find out more about the database here. In a time where life seems increasingly unstable, do join us as we try to change the face of Christian culture and represent the fullness of who God made us to be.
Natalie Collins is a gender justice specialist. She set up Spark and works to enable individuals and organisations to prevent and respond to male violence against women. She is also the creator of DAY, a youth domestic abuse and exploitation education programme.