Forbes recently released their annual World’s Most Powerful Women list. German Chancellor Angela Merkel topped the list, followed by former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton. Taylor Swift, the youngest honoree this year, made the list for the first time. (For more on her new, record-breaking video, see Nick Pitts’s article, Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’).
There was a day when the world’s most powerful women would make up a much smaller list.
My wife and I were recently in Virginia, where we toured a remarkable mansion called Maymont. Built just 25 years after the Civil War by James and Sallie Dooley, the home and grounds make up one of the most stunning estates I have ever seen. Mrs. Dooley was an accomplished writer, poet, benefactor, and community leader. She donated her estate to the City of Richmond and designated that her jewels be sold to benefit Episcopal missions. She was one of the most forward-thinking people of her day.
Yet she strongly disagreed with giving women the right to vote, and helped form the Virginia Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage. It’s hard to imagine a world prior to the 19th Amendment, which was adopted in 1920. But in the last century, much has changed.
One of the Republican Party’s presidential candidates is a female who was once CEO of Hewlett-Packard. The Democratic Party’s frontrunner is a woman who served as a Senator and Secretary of State. Sallie Dooley could not have imagined a world where women hold 23 CEO positions at S&P 500 companies, including General Motors, Xerox, Lockheed Martin, PepsiCo, General Dynamics, and Yahoo.
Women earn almost 60 percent of undergraduate degrees in the U.S., and 60 percent of all master’s degrees. They earn 47 percent of all law degrees, and 48 percent of all medical degrees. Clearly, more women than ever before are pursuing formal education to lead in their fields.
And yet women comprise only 4.6 percent of S&P 500 CEO positions. They hold only 16.9 percent of Fortune 500 board seats. They comprise 34.3 percent of all physicians and surgeons, but only 15.9 percent of medical school deans. And women of color hold only 3.2 percent of Fortune 500 company board seats. In the political arena, women hold only 18.5 percent of congressional seats, 20 percent of U.S. senators, and 10 percent of governors. Twelve percent of the 100 largest American cities are led by women mayors.
What would Jesus say about women in leadership?
The risen Christ chose to reveal himself first to a woman, Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18). He included women among his closest followers (Luke 8:1-3). He befriended (John 4) and healed (Matthew 9:20-22) women ostracized by their society. Paul commended Phoebe (Romans 16:1), Priscilla (v. 3) and Junia (v. 7) for their public ministries. And he stated clearly, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Every Christian you know has a Kingdom assignment of eternal significance. What is yours?