At Denver Institute for Faith & Work, we believe in a big gospel–the idea that Christ’s death and resurrection restores not only individual lives but every corner of creation from the ravages of sin (Colossians 1:19.) What might this “big” gospel mean for our professional relationships? Could reclaiming the Blessed Alliance yield partnerships that only the presence of Jesus could explain?
Consider your own workplace:
- How would you characterize the relational dynamic between men and women?
- Do both genders have influence and authority? If not, what do you think keeps men or women from being more evenly represented throughout the organization?
- Do you believe it’s important (necessary?) to have women at the table? What’s gained or lost by pursuing greater equity in the workplace?
Faithful men, this series of articles is intended to be an invitation, not a critique. We need your strength and influence to build companies where both men and women are empowered to fulfill their God-given potential. But how can you become an advocate? How do find appropriate, God-honoring ways to restore the Blessed Alliance at work?
1. Examine Your Bias.
We all have biases. Rather than denying their existence, identifying these underlying beliefs and the effect they have on your relationships is the first step in strengthening your collaboration. For example, briefly consider the qualities that characterize successful leadership. Consider your list–which qualities seem more male-type or female-type traits? How do your expectations for a woman’s leadership differ from your expectations for a man’s?
2. Dig A Little Deeper
Shifting relational dynamics at work can sometimes feel unsettling for men. For example, if you regard workplace relationships as a zero sum game, seeing women advance may raise concerns that you’ll be left behind. Studies show that men think women are making professional gains more quickly than they actually are, a perception that could fuel anxiety or resistance. Some men worry that advocating for women may challenge masculine norms such as “avoid all things feminine,” “be a winner,” or “never show weakness.” Acknowledging the emotion that accompanies organizational change will help you turn to God for strength and insight as you restore the Blessed Alliance.
3. Seek Wisdom, Reject Fear
I genuinely believe most men want women to succeed at work. However, fallout from recent scandals has left men uncertain about how to cultivate supportive, yet appropriate relationships with female colleagues. Maybe you wonder, “What if I cross a line without knowing it?” or “What if I’m falsely accused of harassment?” A misstep could cost you your career.
In Christian circles, this concern led to the “Mike Pence Rule” (formerly known as the “Billy Graham Rule,”) an attempt to avoid impropriety by choosing not to be alone with any woman who is not your wife. While the motivation behind this rule is honorable, it has unintended consequences for women–consequences which may go unnoticed by men adopting these policies.
The solution to this tension isn’t to self-segregate, but to pursue inclusive solutions to the problem. A few suggestions:
- Apply any rules you create to both genders. If you’re unwilling to work late with the women on your team, apply that policy to men as well. In this era of changing sexual norms, impropriety between male colleagues is as real a risk as impropriety between male and female teammates.
- Normalize meeting with men or women in highly visible locations or small groups.
- Beware of defaulting to all-male gatherings simply because it’s easier and “safer.” It takes extra effort to include women, but shifting any long-standing cultural norm takes work.
- Open your calendar and professional relationships to your spouse. If your personal assistant is female, introduce her to your wife and keep lines of communication between the three of you visible.
- Acknowledge the awkwardness, then move on. Don’t deny that sexual tension exists, that only encourages it to grow. Instead, establish inclusive, healthy norms and get back to work.
4. Act Now
Faithful men, you are uniquely positioned to exert godly influence at “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). I encourage you to act now in small, intentional ways to restore God’s Blessed Alliance:
- Listen and learn. Don’t assume you understand a woman’s experience at work. Ask open-ended questions like, “What could our company do to create a more welcoming environment for women employees?” “How do you think female leaders are evaluated differently than male leaders?” “As a woman, what would you want the men of our company to know about your experience at work?”
- Include and invite.The next time you plan a professional gathering, ask yourself: “Does this group really need to be separated by gender?” You may be surprised by the warm response your invitation receives. Recently, a couple hosting a table at our annual business event intentionally invited couples to attend, even if one member of the pair did not work in business. The couples raved about the experience, with many women commenting they felt inspired, even though their daily work was in a different sector.
- Advocate. Graciously speak up on behalf of your sisters. Something as simple as “I’d like to see a woman added to this team,” makes a world of difference. Take an appropriate interest in younger women’s careers by offering constructive feedback or considering them for roles they can grow into.
Brothers in Christ, this series of articles is intended to be an invitation, not a critique. In this unique cultural moment, may you embrace this opportunity to help men and women fulfill their God-given potential at work.
“Better Together: Building A Workplace Where Both Men & Women Thrive” by Professor Denise Daniels
“To More than A Few Good Men: Don’t Give up on Working with Women” by Halle Gray Scott, Christianity Today
Interested in exploring these topics more? Join us for "Women, Work, & Calling" on October 13th.
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This post was published September 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).