Gender Audit

This week at our General Synod we will be discussing, amongst many, many other things, the Gender Audit. In the past year this has been drawn together showing how many posts in our church are filled by women and men. I think it makes for shocking reading. I’m not sure that I am allowed to publish any of the statistics here yet but suffice to say that women don’t feature heavily in the senior positions of our church: posts like Bishops, Deans, Provosts, Canons and Convenors of Boards and Committees. Of course some may say that it is still ‘early days’ and women just haven’t been ordained long enough to rise through the ranks to those posts. ‘Pooh!’ say I.

If we were to look at the job descriptions of those posts (of course there is no such thing as a job description, but let’s imagine that there is) then I suspect that many of the strengths needed can also be found in the secular workplace.  But our Church doesn’t really work that way.  To me, it seems much more about ‘time served’ rather than skills needed.

I was listening to an interview with the Primus just before Synod and he was asked about the Gender Audit. He said that the ones which struck home most forcefully with him were not the lack of women in senior posts such as Bishops and Deans etc but at the parish level where, on Vestries, men tend to be Treasurers and women are usually the Vestry Secretaries. The Primus says that this ‘struck him most forcefully’. I suppose in terms of grassroots policy if we don’t get the gender balance at that level then there is no hope at a higher level. I’m not convinced. I still think it is more about the ‘old boys network’.

And let it be known that at St Mark’s we have a female Treasurer and a male Vestry Secretary.

10 thoughts on “Gender Audit

  1. The gender audit paper is in the public domain and is available as part of the synod papers download on the Scottish Episcopal Church website. (

    The figures can be quoted from freely.

    What struck me most forcibly was the lack of gender balance in senior positions of the church, bishops, deans, provosts and canons and also the fact that the selectors for ministry are precisely gender balanced. It would appear we have something to learn from that little corner of the church and whoever runs it.

    BTW, do you remember the Provincial Conference at which Marcus Borg spoke in St Andrews? He insisted on taking questions alternately from men and women. I’ve never forgotten that. Such an easy trick and it led to a much more inclusive and interesting conversation.

  2. You may be right about the ‘old boys network’ Ruth. About time the SEC had some women Provosts and Bishops, so get nominating at the next opportunity! Who knows, if Alison Peden had been working in the diocese of Glasgow and more well known in the diocese, she might have been elected. However, it was great that she was on the short list. Re women as treasurers etc, in four SEC congregations I’ve been part of there have been female treasurers, but that’s not much of a survey!

  3. Oh don’t get me started, this was one of the soapboxes I had to get down off of at our Diocesan Pre-Synod meeting last Monday.

  4. And women chair (and work) in meetings in a completely different way. I think the Primus’ comments are a red herring. I’m not really worried about treasurers and secretaries – but I am concerned about the lack of women in senior positions. I am really joyed at the gender balance in the Selection process though.

    I missed the Marcus Borg conference but I do think we have a lot to learn from the USA.

  5. There is a theory that jobs (vocations?) where there are more women than men eventually end up being devalued. So maybe the current gender imbalance isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  6. Agatha I would be interested to learn the provenance of your theory. Surely the very composition of the word imbalance suggests instability. The Stained Glass Ceilling in the SEC is very much in evidence and needs to be dismantled. It may need to be done piece by piece, over a very long period of time ~ but it will never be done if we don’t believe it to be possible.

  7. Jennifer, I can’t remember where I originally read this as it was a long time ago. Where it came from, from memory, was that in Western society in the 1950s (say) men were doctors – and highly regarded in society – women were nurses, less highly regarded. In what was then the USSR, then, women were mainly doctors, and the position was not well regarded.

    Other examples are when men used to be “secretaries” (keepers of “secrets”) and then women became “typists”, much lower down the social scale. Men are headmasters – well regarded, women are teachers, not so well regarded.

    And of course, the ultimate example – child care. Done by women, not well regarded in society.

    Please note these are not my own views!!

  8. Yes, Edinburgh’s situation angered me most too. Sadly, I think it is because our canons won’t retire – or even when they do retire they want to carry on being a canon thus preventing other folk getting a chance.

    And just for the record, I hold teachers in the highest esteem!

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