One of the highlights of Denver Institute’s event calendar is our annual business leaders’ event “Business for the Common Good.” This year’s gathering was no exception as entrepreneurs and executives from across the country joined us to consider how God could work through the gifts and influence of His people.
Guests packed the Studio Loft at Ellie Caulkins Opera House, making new connections and greeting old friends, but as I looked across the sea of suits and ties, one thing was shockingly clear—there were hardly any women. Less than ten percent of the 170 attendees were female. The gender disparity was so pronounced that one of the men commented, “Get more women to the event. It felt like a good old boys club (bunch of wealthy white dudes). Yikes! I'm sure a lot of female workers would have loved it.” I agree! I think many female professionals would have enjoyed the event. So why didn’t they attend?
The gender disparity at “Business for the Common Good” was not an isolated incident. Whether we’re inviting local leaders to join Denver Institute’s advisory board, finding panelists for events, or scheduling senior leaders to speak to the 5280 Fellows, it’s a challenge to find professional women to participate.
In a cultural moment that stresses the importance of diversity, it’s become second nature to scan a program’s webpage in search of women or people of color. We’re quick to notice if they’re not represented, but less able to understand the factors that lead to this absence—or what we’re supposed to do about it.
Seeing this dynamic shift will take time as it forces us to examine deeply rooted expectations about gender roles, leadership models, and workplace dynamics. However, this journey also invites us to consider life-giving questions such as:
Over the remaining posts in this 4-part series, I’ll offer a response to these questions and challenge local churches, faithful men, and faithful women with specific roles they can play to draw out each worker’s gifts, regardless of gender.
May we celebrate each other’s God-given potential as we learn to labor together in love, unity, humility, and holiness.
Joanna serves as Denver Institute’s Director of Public Engagement, hosts the Faith & Work Podcast, and founded Women, Work, & Calling, a national initiative that disciples women for godly influence in public life. Prior to coming to the Institute, Joanna worked in global telecom, nonprofit consulting, and campus ministry with Cru. She served as associate faculty at Denver Seminary and as a sewing instructor at Fancy Tiger Crafts. A third-generation Coloradan, Joanna appreciates both the state’s innovative culture and its cowboy roots. She has an MA in Social Entrepreneurship from Bakke Graduate University and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She also completed a certificate of Women in Leadership through Cornell University.
She is the author of Women, Work, & Calling: Step Into Your Place in God’s World (IVP, Fall 2023) and is a contributor to the multi-author book, Women & Work: Bearing God’s Image and Joining in His Mission through our Work (B&H Publishing, Spring 2023).