by Mary Beth Fraser Connolly
In a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Cristina Richie examines the lack of female leadership in evangelical seminaries. According to Richie, while women have made strides in academia in general, entering positions of authority (such full professor, deans, and other administrative roles), they fall behind in “Seminaries and other institutions that operate under a religious exemption from nondiscrimination laws have a long tradition of male-only education that often perpetuates itself through misogynistic practices.”
Richie describes the not-all-too-shocking gender landscape in the evangelical academy where female faculty are significantly less represented when compared to their male counterparts. Furthermore, Richie argues the system itself appears to be set up to preference male faculty (again, not shocking news). The result of this imbalance is that female intellectuals are not contributing to the larger development of the future of theological education. Richie’s essay is clear, concise, and points to both evangelical, mainline Protestant, and Catholic institutions’ historical lack of gender equality in leadership. Women’s minority presence in this area of the academy is a multi-layered problem that needs to be addressed. Richie argues for female academics and their male supporters to push for a larger presence at the same time she challenges traditionally-minded (and arguably misogynistic) male leadership to get out of the way of change. Richie warns her readers that “[u]nderutilizing the expertise of trained evangelical women scholars leads to lopsided intellectual work and the dwarfing of the theological mind.”
In many ways, Richie’s caution to seminaries and other religious institutions needs to go broader. Yes, women have moved into positions of authority throughout the academy and they are more broadly represented among faculty in colleges and universities. But can we do more to foster an equitable work space for all faculty and staff regardless of gender or position in the academy?