As we emerge from the dark season of Covid-19, an alarming reality flares: The American workplace has lost scores of qualified, female leaders. In April 2020, 55 percent of the 20 million jobs lost that month (many by forced furlough) were attributed to women, prompting the new term “shecession.”
By September 2020, the exodus of working women reached crisis proportions. The sixth annual “Women in the Workplace” study by McKinsey & Company reported that more than one in four women contemplated downshifting their careers or leaving the workplace altogether. Their study affirmed that not only do companies risk losing key leaders and future leaders, but decades of slow progress toward gender diversity may be unwinding.
Today, women—including working moms looking to reenter the workforce after stepping away to care for family needs during the pandemic—face new obstacles as they struggle to find jobs with comparable level and pay to those held prior to the pandemic.
The calling of Christian working women
Working women—and particularly Christian working women—stand at a critical crossroads. Many lack support and community with like-minded women as they navigate the challenges of changing work environments and perspectives of work. In the United States, 45 million working women identify as Christian, yet less than one-third actively connect in faith community.
Reframing their careers post-Covid may entail refining responsibilities or revising the job description. Reframing may involve regrouping and moving toward a new role, organization, or industry using the skills and experience already under their belt. Reframing may encompass trekking unchartered territory as they resource an entirely new dream.
However women reframe work in this new season, one constant remains: women have been created for, and called to, purposeful work in their everyday workplaces.
Thus, Christian women need to root their reframing decisions in Scripture as they pray through the process. Three biblical truths can help guide the way.
Three biblical truths for working women
1. Working women are created in the image of a God who works.
In the first line of Scripture, God reveals, “In the beginning, God created”—or, in other words, in the beginning God went to work.
The chapter continues with the good, good, good . . . very good of all that God created. In Genesis 1:26–28, God introduces man and woman as the imago Dei, his image-bearers in the world called to work as his representatives by continuing the work of creating culture and providing for and sustaining God’s creation (Genesis 1:28 is often referred to as the “Cultural Mandate”).
Before any curses in Genesis 3, God identified work as an intrinsic aspect of flourishing life for humanity made in the image of God. This high value of women and their work stands as a foundation for reframing perspectives of work today.
2. God strategically places Christian women in their workplaces and circles of influence.
Ephesians 2:10 affirms, “For we are God’s workmanship [masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” This verse echoes the “good, good, good . . . very good” of Genesis 1. It proclaims the purposeful good work prepared for each Christ-follower (who remain the imago Dei) as they incorporate their skills, talents, passions, and experience into their work—in whatever form and context that work takes in this season.
Good work may reflect excellence, integrity, and giftedness in the work itself. Good work may reflect a means of provision and flourishing for family and community. And good work may reflect genuine interest in and care for people and relationships at work. All three of these aspects of work—the work itself, the fruit/benefits of the work, and relationships within the workplace—become important factors to lay before the Lord while seeking wisdom and guidance in the reframing process.
3. All Christ-followers, including women, are called to work as Jesus’ ambassadors in their daily workplaces.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17–6:1, the apostle Paul addresses anyone in Christ—meaning everyone who believes in, and walks with, Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. He refers to Christ-followers as God’s coworkers and says, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”
Christ has prepared an important role in the workplace for Christian working women—that of ambassador. An ambassador honorably represents the king or leader who sends them, and they carry the specific messages of the sovereign sender to the people of the land. Due to their position, they have access to, and can interact with, people that others may not be able to reach.
In this way, Christ has strategically placed Christian women in their daily workplace mission fields. As his ambassadors, working women have the opportunity to collaborate with, come alongside, and build relationships founded on respect with people that church pastors, clergy, and staff will never reach.
Working women have a critical role to play as Truth-tellers and hope-bearers as they bring Christ’s light into their daily interactions. This prestigious calling to work as Christ’s ambassador in the work world, regardless of context, becomes an important component of reframing work for the new season.
Reveresing the “shecession”
As women emerge from Covid lockdowns, many feel the weight of transition and prolonged isolation, especially in the realm of work. And while reframing careers post-Covid may look different for each person, now more than ever a universal need is connecting in the community of Christian working women to encourage, support, and raise up female leaders in all industries and all levels.
Developing a biblical perspective of working women and their daily roles could become the catalyst to reversing the effects of 2020’s shecession. Christian working women—created masterfully for work of purpose—represent God as they join his work. And as they collaborate and walk the journey together as coworkers with Christ and each other, these ambassadors live out Christ’s gospel message as they carry it to the world.
DR. JOY DAHL is a disciple-making disciple, helping believers embrace their calling as Christ’s ambassadors in the world and in the workplace. As a CPA and a Chief Financial Officer by trade, Joy has focused most of her career on start-up and high-growth companies in Washington DC, New York, and Texas. Joy earned three degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary: Master of Christian Education, Master of Biblical Studies, and Doctor of Ministry.
Her emphasis on the integration of faith and work led to her current role as Executive Director of Polished Network, which gathers women to navigate the workplace and explore faith together in authentic community. Joy blogs monthly on Bible.org, and she is the visionary behind the BOLDLY Conference—the first-of-its-kind Faith + Work for Women Conference launching in 2021.