I've just received some fascinating results of a survey on 'Women in Senior Posts' (in the Church of England).
A total of 1083 questionaires were returned, from women clergy currently in posts ranging from dean to curate. In response to the question, 'If the opportunity arose some time in the future, would you be prepared to take up a more senior post?' 850 out of that 1083 (78%) said 'Yes'.
This is somewhat at variance with the view that many ordained women are just not interested in posts which come with a high degree of responsibility.
The project was focused around women's aspirations to senior posts, including episcopal ministry. Of most interest to me were responses about other posts which women aspire to, what might prompt them to apply for these posts, and what might prevent them from applying.
Out of those 1083 women, 635 said they'd consider a Team Rector post, 537 being Rural Dean, and 597 a Major Incumbency. What would encourage them to apply? 80% said a personal approach, and only 5.6% said they'd respond to an open advertisement.
If they would not consider a senior post, the first reason given (21.5%) was lack of confidence, followed by the nature of the role, and way down at 2% was geography.
I'm fascinated by this. Almost surprised at the large proportion saying Yes, despite the current situation of deployment patterns. Not surprised that women lack confidence. And moderately surprised at the gap between those who would only respond to a personal response and those who would take the initiative to apply.
If women are up for stepping up, then it seems that the lack of women in senior roles is not so much to do with women's aspiration. So is it, as many have been saying, more to do with hidden bias in the system, and the male leadership culture of the Church? And if so, what is ever going to change it?