Championing Women! (This is for men, too!)
An examination of employment data in education reveals that most classroom teachers are women. Over 75% of teachers are female; that number is 90% in primary schools. Additionally, though leadership positions in education have historically been dominated by males, a growing number of females are assuming administrative jobs. Recent studies reveal that over half of principals are female, and the number of women in leadership positions at the central office level is increasing dramatically.
Having been a classroom teacher, building administrator, district administrator, and educational consultant, I’ve seen my fair share of dysfunction in educational systems across the country. There are a number of factors that can create a work environment that is not encouraging and supportive. One of those, and the focus of this blog, is the extent to which women support other women in the workplace. While great strides have been made over the past few years, we still have a long way to go.
Men, you might be tempted to quit reading write now. Please don’t. We need you, and more importantly, we need you to encourage us and hold us accountable!
Our culture has used adjectives such as the following to describe women in the workplace: petty, insecure, overbearing, and backbiting. We may be tempted to place the blame for these negative stereotypes elsewhere (e.g., television, men, social media). As women we need to come face-to-face with the fact that our own actions may have perpetuated these perceptions.
Consider, for example, whether or not you have witnessed (or done) any of the following.
· Complained to a male colleague/boss about a female colleague instead of just talking to her kindly, openly, and honestly.
· Gossiped about what you “saw” or “heard” about a female colleague.
· Listened to complaints about female colleagues without redirecting the complainer.
· Refused to acknowledge the accomplishments of a female colleague.
· Made assumptions about what a female colleague implied in a conversation verses questioning and seeking to understand.
While these particular behaviors could occur with our male counterparts, the likelihood is far less given our female-dominated work environments. When it comes to the female gender, too often we find ourselves in competition with each other rather than being a champion for one another.
Friction between women is nothing new. It has been around a long time. We get a glimpse of this in the Book of Philippians. Women were very instrumental in spreading the Gospel during the formation of the early church. Check out the women’s prayer group in Acts 16! A couple of these women, Euodia and Syntyche, worked directly with Paul to spread the Gospel throughout Phillipi. However, something went awry between these two women. Paul’s observations in Philippians 4:2-3 provide a glimpse into the situation.
“Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And, I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, who names are written in the Book of Life.”
We don’t know what the argument was; however, it is pretty clear that it was public. Otherwise, Paul would not have heard about it in prison! Paul knew dissension among believers would only hurt the unity and testimony of the early church. While interactions with other believers will never be completely free from conflict, Paul encouraged these women to remember they belonged to the Lord! He also urged the other believers around them to jump in and help!
Paul’s words serve as reminders for us. First, public arguments among believers negatively impact our witness to non-believers and create dissension among believers. Second, we are not to stand idly by and watch the fireworks! “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9.
However, let’s not limit our discussion to public arguments. As Godly women, it is time to be purposeful and public when it comes to supporting each other. After Paul implores the women and believers to resolve their issues, he goes on to say the following:
· Always be full of joy in the Lord. (v. 4)
· Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. (v. 5)
· Don’t worry about anything; pray about everything. (v. 6)
· Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. (v. 7)
· Keep putting into practice all you have learned. (v. 9)
· God’s peace will guard your hearts. (v. 7)
So, what are some practical ways that we can live this out in our work life and be a champion for other women? Let me offer some ideas to consider.
1. Pray! Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment. Pray to see others as He does. Ask for a heart to love.
2. Purposefully identify one or two other women in your workplace you can applaud and support.
3. Never assume the worst. If a fellow teacher upsets us (especially a fellow believer), approach them privately and humbly.
Seek to understand and resolve the conflict. We may not be successful, but we will know we have done our part.
4. When someone says something unkind about another teacher, don’t repeat it. Period. Instead, redirect. Let’s try phrases like the following:
· “That doesn’t sound like her. There might be a misunderstanding.”
· “I know she really cares about her students and her colleagues. Maybe something else is going on.”
· “I wonder if something else is going on. Why don’t you talk to her?”
5. Let Scripture be our guide.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
The tide is changing. As women we have an opportunity to influence our workplaces and our culture! We don’t have to bash men to support each other. We also don’t have to sacrifice our calling to support each other. As a mother of two strong daughters and two young granddaughters, I want them to live in a world that values their uniqueness and breaks down the stereotypes of the past.
Let’s heed Paul’s advice and never forget we belong to the Lord! We are to be set apart. Let’s be active in our pursuit to champion and encourage our sisters in Christ.