PIs: Janel Curry (Provost, Gordon) and
Amy Reynolds (Sociology/Gender Studies, Wheaton College)
With Neil Carlson, Center for Social Research (Calvin)

Research Advisory Group:
Dr. Pamela Cochran, Religious Studies, Sewanee University
Dr. Korie Edwards, Sociology, Ohio State University
Dr. Karen Longman, Higher Education, Azusa Pacific University
Dr. Ruth Melkonian, Political Science , Gordon College
Dr. Helen Sterk, Communications/Gender Studies, Western Kentucky University
Dr. Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Psychology/Gender Studies, Eastern University

Project Overview
Previous work has documented that women in authoritative positions within evangelical organizations face a number of pressures. Julie Ingersoll’s Evangelical Christian Women (NYU Press, 2003) and Nicola Creegan and Christine Pohl’s Living on the Boundaries provide some on the ground examples. While both these studies rely on important qualitative data with women in a variety of evangelical institutions, neither of these provide macro level data analyzing the position of women in leadership positions.

Broader studies of gender parity within leadership reveal that the larger story within the United States is quite grim: women account for only 18% of the top leaders in the U.S. across all sectors (White House Project Report: Benchmarking Women’s Leadership, 2009). Among non-profits, these numbers were higher, with women occupying 47% of executive leadership positions. However, we know very little about what religious organizations look like in terms of gender equity. A recent study of Jewish non-profits found these organizations suffered an even stronger case of gender disparity, with only 12% of executive leadership positions in non-profits occupied by women (Jewish Daily Forward 2010).

How well are women represented in leadership positions within evangelical institutions? Given the ways that conservative evangelical theology and culture is often connected with stronger beliefs about gendered differences (Ingersoll 2003; Creegan and Pohl 2005), and the strong connection between gendered stereotypes and inequality in positions (Ridgeway 2011) we would expect even fewer women to be represented at leadership levels than in other organizations.

We propose a two-phase study to both examine the status of women’s representation at the highest levels of leadership in evangelical institutions, as well as to investigate some of the institutional barriers (and supports) that are connected with gendered leadership outcomes. Of particular importance for this study are several sectors: evangelical academic institutions, campus ministries, the relief/development actors, and the larger nonprofit sector. In the first phase of this study, we will collect and analyze data on the level of gender parity within evangelical organizations, as well as the variance in institutional policies and culture. In the second (qualitative) phase of this study, we will examine some of the institutions that are most successful in efforts towards encouraging women in leadership, with the end of being able to establish best practices.

Central to this study is the application of such findings towards the larger evangelical community. Due to the connection with the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at Gordon College, this findings will be publicized within the larger community, through press releases and news articles, publishing the results with a popular press, producing films for distribution, and convening a conference of evangelical leaders at the conclusion.

Phase 1 Research Plan
Part A: Assessing the Gendered Composition of Leadership in Evangelical Institutions

Given the various definitions of evangelical, we have decided to measure organizations based on the ways they categorize themselves, and the communities that they selectively choose to participate within. We will be using the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), an organization of over 1700 members that provides accreditation to non-profits who comply with their standards of accountability, fundraising, and governance. However, some large organizations are not in this list, perhaps because such a stamp is less important for them.

To complement this list, we will also include organizations that belong to the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), and Accord (previously Association of Evangelical Relief and Development Organizations), given that both of these groups contain evangelicals who are of particular interest for this study. We have included additional seminaries (affiliated with CCCU and the Evangelical Theological Society). Finally, we have also included a number of large evangelical parachurch campus ministries that were missing from the list.

We are aware that evangelical is an identity more likely to be adopted by white Christians than black Christians with similar theologies, and we recognize that this may bias our sample. That is, many who would fit a theological definition of evangelicalism might be excluded from this sample because of a self-selection problem (see Steensland et al, 2000). In order to include more racial diversity within our sample, we also include Protestant colleges that are part of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and ethnic-specific ministries on college campuses. When looking at the relief and development listings, we include denominational affiliated relief arms of Black Protestant churches.

Study Aims:
This basic assessment of board/leadership composition will allow us to create a picture of how well women are represented in leadership positions in a large group of evangelical organizations, as well as their representation broken down by sector. This data will be compared with the White House Project report for non-profits and educational institutions in the broader society. Most of this data will be collected through 990 data from 2010.

When necessary, web searches will also be conducted to determine race/ethnicity of staff
and board members.

The following positions will be coded (when applicable):

  1. President, CEO, or director
  2. Members of the Board of Directors or Board of Trustees; Chair of the Board
  3. Top paid individuals listed on 990 forms (those making over $100,000)

For each person holding one of these positions, we will code the following:

  1. Gender
  2. Race and Ethnicity (when available)
  3. Official Title
  4. Salary (if part of the executive team and listed on 990) and salary breakdown by benefits/compensation

The following basic institutional variables will also be coded for each organization:

  1. Annual budget
  2. Age of organization
  3. Type of organization
  4. Location (urban/rural)
  5. Denomination affiliation

Part B: Understanding Institutional Determinants of Gender Parity in Leadership

For this part of the study, we will be focused on gendered leadership composition in specific industries: the non-profit sector, relief and development organizations, the academy, and campus ministries. We expect to include approximately 400 institutions in this part of the analysis.

Academic: 118 CCCU members, ECFA colleges/universities, Christian HBCUs, and evangelical seminaries

Campus Ministry: Groups on the ECFA list (100+) that cater to students, large parachurch ministries, additional ethnic-specific ministries

Relief and Development: Members of Accord (Association of Evangelical Relief and Development Organizations), relief arms/organizations of Black Protestant denominations

Non-Profits: All ECFA non-profits with budgets over $5 million, a sample of groups with budgets under $5 million

Study Aims:
We will analyze various institutional variables correlated with the presence of women in leadership. Information on institutional variables is coded through attention to organizational documents. Through the use of surveys (to be sent to those in leadership positions in all of these organizations), we will also consider how cultural and religious variables are connected with women’s representation in leadership.

In addition to the leaders studied in Part A, we will also include chaplains of universities and make sure all deans/vice presidents of colleges are included on the list.

We will consider a number of basic organizational variables that previous research has found to impact the presence of women in leadership. These include the following:

  1. Number of people in the organization
  2. Economic Size (Budget) of the organization
  3. For universities, whether AA, bachelors, masters, doctoral, seminary
  4. For non-profits, the industry in which they are located
  5. Age of organization
  6. Location of organization (urban/rural; presence in the south)

We will also measure the following policies we expect to be connected with women’s representation through the coding of various official school policies:

  1. Maternity and paternity policy (compliance with FMLA, paid leave)
  2. Dependent Care policy (subsidized dependent care, on-site care)
  3. Existence of gender mentoring program for women
  4. Gender equality/equity being mentioned in the Strategic Plan
  5. Promotional policies (tenure, naming gender)
  6. Dual-career policy (anti-nepotism policies, attention to dual-career family concerns)

A survey (attached) will be sent to leaders to measure their specific ideas about religion, gender, and leadership. Through these surveys, we hope to analyze how gender ideals, religious traditions, and leadership styles of executive boards are connected with the institutional culture, thereby impacting women’s presence in leadership:

  1. Dominant approaches to leadership among executives
  2. Dominant religious identities of those in leadership
  3. Dominant theological traditions of those in leadership
  4. Attitudes towards women in leadership in the home, in church, and in society

Finally, we will also consider if the men who hold leadership positions from women look different, as previous research has suggested is the case. That is, how might the predictors or qualifications for men and women differ? We will analyze the following demographic data for leaders within organizations:

  1. Age
  2. Time at organization
  3. Time in current position
  4. Top educational degree (type of degree, institution)
  5. Boards on which they serve
  6. Family status (marital status; children)
  7. Influence as determined by peers