by Christa L. McKirland
Though not without controversy, 169 Russian athletes were allowed to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympic games on the heels of a pervasive doping scandal. While these competitors were not found culpable, they shared the incrimination of being from the offending country. Thus, they were prohibited from wearing any national identification or from hearing their country’s national anthem. Yet, they retained access to the world’s most prestigious arena of competition.
Why was it so important, not only to these athletes, but also to the International Olympic Committee, to allow them to compete? It’s simple, really. To claim an Olympic medal implies that this person is the best in the world. However, if some of the best athletes are not allowed to compete, then this calls into question the caliber of the winners and the rigor of the competition itself.
Now, imagine if half of the world’s athletes were not allowed in the Olympics.
Such has been the state of play for women in both the religious academy and the church for millennia. While in many ways different from the Olympic games (much more is at stake than medals), these are spheres of influence in which women have been barred or significantly hampered from investing in to the fullest extent.
Logia exists to help remove gender-specific barriers that inhibit women’s thriving, especially in the academy and church. Women and men deserve equal voice and equal standing within the academy; but women still face gender-related obstacles to entry, full inclusion, and advancement across the Divinity disciplines. Consequently, the excellence in these disciplines is diminished because half of the potential scholars are inhibited from contributing to these pursuits. We miss out on half of the world’s most critical thinkers contemplating, writing on, and teaching about the divine and the nature of reality.
Furthermore, historically, the Christian theological tradition has not fully recognized or valued the voices of women Yet women’s contributions to the church are just as valuable as men’s. By having women involved in various levels of service, the church is able to be the body of Christ more completely when everyone is maximizing their gifts and callings.
Fortunately, we can take practical steps to see this change. Specifically, as Logia seeks to affect the academy, here are ways you can help.
IN YOUR CLASSROOM
- Include women scholars on your course syllabus (for a developing list of women Divinity scholars, see the Logia webpage).
- Invite women to guest lecture in your class.
- Mentor women students and new faculty.
- Encourage collaborative engagement in classroom discussion.
- Establish constructive Q&A guidelines for discussion. For instance, students should ask themselves: Is this question about making me look good? Is this question about making the speaker/author look bad? Will my question benefit the majority of the class? Will my question further this discussion?
- Structure class time to include small group discussions such as the think-pair-share technique. This helps students test their voice in a lower-stakes context before speaking in a larger group.
AT YOUR INSTITUTION
- Conduct a survey of both students and faculty to assess your institutional gender climate.
- Review parental leave policies to examine if these support faculty who are parents (and ask them for their input).
- Allocate financial resources to contribute to childcare costs of affected students and faculty.
- Set up breast-feeding sites and baby changing facilities with clear signage. This helps to communicate that having a family and an academic career are not mutually exclusive.
- Schedule meetings and seminars within the regular working day.
- Allow for flexible working hours where possible.
- Install glass windows on all office doors so that meetings can occur with privacy and transparency.
You may not have a classroom or be in an academic environment, but there is still plenty you can do to help:
IN YOUR OWN LIFE
- Foster perspective-taking and active listening of those with different gendered experiences.
- Seek out friendships with those who do not share your gender or gendered experience.
- Be an advocate when someone dismisses the need for full inclusion of women in the academy and church.
- If you have a church community, encourage women’s active and visible participation in your gatherings (praying aloud, reading scripture, etc.)
These are all just the tip of the iceberg in terms of addressing gender-specific barriers. Be creative. Be intentional. And one day, we’ll be amazed at the richness of all of our contributions to the academy and the church.
*Much of the material for this post can be found on our website in a distributable format.
Christa L. McKirland is a Research Fellow in the Logos Institute. Her research proposes a pneumatologically-Christocentric anthropology based upon the significance and uniqueness of the fundamental human need for intentional dependence upon the divine presence.
 Unfortunately, this restrictiveness is not limited to the Christian tradition, but this is the tradition in which Logia is sourced and is most immediately seeking to affect.
 This is a technique wherein students are given a prompt for discussion and first think to themselves (possibly writing down their responses), then they pair up with a partner to talk through their responses, and finally, they share out with the larger group.