Editor’s note: Through this series of articles, we’ve explored the challenges men and women face as they labor together. In this installment, Joanna invites Christian men to consider the critical role they play in helping women thrive at work. Be sure to read part 1 and part 2 of the series.
Men and women work side by side, wrestling with the same business challenges, attending the same meetings, and walking the same hallways. But as a recent Wall Street Journal article suggests, the common ground ends there:
“Men and women experience very different workplaces, ones in which the odds for advancement vary widely and corporate careers come in two flavors: his and hers…Data show that men win more promotions, more challenging assignments and more access to top leaders than women do. Men are more likely than women to feel confident they are en route to an executive role, and feel more strongly that their employer rewards merit. Women, meanwhile, perceive a steeper trek to the top. Less than half feel that promotions are awarded fairly or that the best opportunities go to the most-deserving employees. A significant share of women say that gender has been a factor in missed raises and promotions. Even more believe that their gender will make it harder for them to advance in the future—a sentiment most strongly felt by women at senior levels.”
As Christians, why should we care about equity in the workplace? What does Scripture say about leadership in the workplace? How do we navigate the practical challenges of men and women working together in God-honoring ways?
Why does it matter?
From what I’ve observed, most Christian men genuinely desire to do the right thing. They expect women to be treated respectfully in professional settings and seek to honor their marriages as they interact with female colleagues, but they may not recognize subtle biases or cultural dynamics that hold women back at work. For others, the perceived cost of supporting women’s advancement may outweigh the benefit of shifting the status quo.
Speaking plainly, companies won’t see a more balanced workforce until the men that lead them see women’s contributions as essential to success. Like any diversity initiative, this isn’t about finding a token woman to serve on your board; rather, it’s about building a workplace culture that stewards the gifts of every employee.
Restoring the Blessed Alliance
You don’t have to look farther than Genesis to discover male/female collaboration at the root of God’s earthly design. Author Carolyn Custis James refers to this God-ordained partnership as the “Blessed Alliance”:
“What has the ring of something innovative and progressive is actually a remnant of humanity’s forgotten ancient past—an idea with primordial biblical roots that can be traced back to the Garden of Eden.
The notion that things work better and human beings become their best selves when men and women work together is found on page 1 of the Bible. When God was launching the most ambitious enterprise the world has ever known, the team He put together to do the job was male and female.
Adam and Eve faced a challenge of Mount Everest proportions that required a solid connection between themselves and their Creator. As His vice-regents, together they were charged with looking after things on His behalf—wisely to steward and utilize the earth’s resources. Their goal together was to build His gracious kingdom on earth. No square inch of earth is excluded. No arena of life is beyond the parameters of their joint rule…
[God created a] Blessed Alliance between male and female. Having created his male and female image bearers, ‘God blessed them,’ then spread before them the global mandate to rule and subdue on His behalf. According to Genesis, male/female relationships are a kingdom strategy—designed to be an unstoppable force for good in the world.” (emphasis added)
It’s common to assume this “blessed alliance” refers to the marriage relationship, but to do so ignores dynamic male/female partnerships throughout the Bible. Consider the examples of Esther and Mordecai, who saved the Israelites from a genocidal king, Aquila and Priscilla, who labored as tentmakers alongside Paul, or Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, who funded Christ’s ministry. The alliance also flows through church history in the work of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, friends whose passion for Christ inspired Catholic renewal in 16th century Spain, or William Wilberforce and Hannah More, whose leadership of the Clapham Circle abolished slavery in England.
By losing our vision for the Blessed Alliance, we’ve allowed the enemy to diminish our collective impact. We compete rather than collaborate, and as the #metoo movement has shown, abused those God intends as allies.
Editor’s note: Be sure to read our fourth and final installment of the “Called Together” blog series.
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This post was published July 18, 2018
Joanna serves as Denver Institute’s Director of Public Engagement, hosts the Faith & Work Podcast, and oversees the Women & Vocation Initiative. 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 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).