As a 20-year veteran in ministry, leadership and people development, Kadi Cole was used to being the lone woman among large groups of male leaders.
But in recent years, she started to notice something unusual was happening: “Male leaders started seeking me out, asking me what it’s like to be a female in leadership and how they can help women in their congregations grow,” she told The Christian Post. “It just kept happening, and I started to realize that this conversation about women leading in their church at various different levels is really starting to shift.”
However, after speaking with the women these men were trying to develop, Cole discovered there was a significant disconnect between what was expressed by male leadership and how things were done in practice.
“The women either got the wrong message from men, or they misunderstood what these guys were trying to do,” she said. “And I just started to realize that there is this big gap between leadership teams wanting to grow women on their teams and what women are experiencing on that actual team.”
“In that space, I just felt like there was so much untapped potential. I believe that if we can figure out how to help those two groups find one another and have a common language, then we can really start to see some better leadership momentum at our local churches.”
In her forthcoming book, Developing Female Leaders: Navigate the Minefields and Release the Potential of Women in Your Church, Cole identifies the roadblocks facing women and offers practical steps churches can take to facilitate the development of females as leaders.
Based on interviews and surveys of more than 1,000 women in key church and organizational roles, combined with recent research, Cole discovered that while women make up 61 percent of church congregations, less than 10 percent tend to be in any sort of leadership role.
There’s no question, she said, that women face a “stained glass ceiling” when it comes to church leadership. “Many times, women are left out of leadership development opportunities, or they’re just not included, noticed, or invited because men have historically always been in leadership,” she said.
“Most people forget that it wasn’t until 1920 that women were even allowed to vote. Women haven’t even been voting for a hundred years in our country. So that means my grandma didn’t vote, and she’s the woman who raised my mom, and then my mom raised me. Those are hard mentalities to shift in just one generation.”
But the larger problem at play, she said, is the “sticky floor” holding women back. “There are so many things inside of women that don’t allow them to succeed,” she explained. “Things like imposter syndrome, which is this idea that you kind of feel like you’re a fake or a fraud, or these inner insecurities.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett