Today WATCH publish a graphic and article claiming that the appointment of 10 male Bishops and 8 female Bishops over the past year represents an ongoing inequality.
This might be considered particularly acute given a backlog of talented women clergy hitherto denied episcopal ministry. However going forward if a gender parity on senior staff teams is desired it’s not the appointments process that needs scrutiny but the young and youngish vocations.
For the past ten years a mere 22% of those selected for ordained ministry in their 20s have been women.
Only 35% of those selected for ordained ministry in their 30s have been women.
Given that almost all Bishops have been ordained for 14+ years before consecration, and most Bishops will be consecrated before they turn 55, the youngest of them in their early forties, then the pool of candidates to choose from range from 78-67% male.
This is compounded by another factor: The different ordained paths pursued by stipendiary women and men post ordination. If full-time incumbencies are considered important experience for those whose primary responsibility is care for those in those positions, then women are again disadvantaged, being much more likely to have taken career breaks, part-time posts, and chaplaincy postings.
Over half of recent archdeacon appointments have been women. If the agenda is gender parity then given the available talent pool, once the backlog of talent has been accounted for, gender balanced senior staff teams are statistically likely to have been either a) a result of positive discrimination or b) because we have changed the way that we account for and validate ministry experience. It is often pointed out that my ordained, part-time, locally supported wife and colleague is far wiser than I. Should her ministerial track be less adequate a preparation for an oversight ministry than mine?
But the biggest issue remains recruitment of young/young-ish women and as I will argue in my next post (coming soon) if that gap is going to change it’s going to necessitate a massive wakeup from the New Wine and HTB networks…
This blog post is part one of a series of posts outlining the results of research conducted in 2015. This involved extensive semi-structured interviews of key gatekeepers to ordained ministry, open questions on a Facebook forum for ordained women, a literature review and a survey of those exploring/training for ordained ministry in the Diocese of London.