I posted this document from the folks at Harvard Div School
a couple of weeks ago. It is a self-study from Harvard about their own efforts to educate fine UU ministers. Someone left a comment noting that all the research was on sole/senior pastors, leaving out an increasingly important category of ministers, those who serve on staffs (Assistant, Associate, Co-, MRE, etc.) The commenter noted that ministers are not well socialized to serve well on colleague teams, and I would certainly second that comment, note that our larger congregations require that skill set from all the ministers who serve them, and that our lone ranger ministerial culture permiates our lives deeply and not just in theological schools. Serving with colleagues is to be a square peg in a round hole every way you turn.
I re-read the document to make sure that the commenter was correct (s/he was) and found something else that needs comment.
For part of their study, the good folks at Harvard wanted to interview some "excellent" ministers to ascertain what parts of their education experience had been most valuable to them. How to figure out whom to interview? Here's what they did. "David Pettee surveyed several long-time Unitarian Universalist officials and asked them to give us a list of the ministers within the movement whom they would characterize as excellent."
They then compiled a list, apparently only by choosing all the names that appreared more than once. Although they note that they got a good sampling of ministerial tenure (grads from the 60's-90's,) and type of ministry (7 parish, two community, presumably the two UUA staff who made the cut) they don't comment about the fact that they interviewed 7 men and 2 women.
Now, the last I heard, our ministerial pool is more than 50% female and has been that way for a good long time. (10 years? 20?) So any research sample of ministers which is almost 80% male has to be questioned. Hello! Research 101! Sample demographics should match real demographics!
The fact that this was the sample used and that it was used with no comment is disappointing on three scores. First, one can intuit from the text that "longtime UU Officials" have a decided bias (STILL!!!!) towards a masculine norm in their, probably, off-the-cuff assessment of who is an excellent minister. This is not a big surprise, but it is the sort of dreary disappointment that confirms what one never wanted to bring to consciousness. You wouldn't necessarily expect them to review their lists to see if they had anything like a proportional representation of women and ask themselves if they were being real in what was probably a very informal process. Still it's a sad comment on the state of feminism amongst us, isn't it?
(Don't even think it might actually be the case that only 2 persons in a pool of 9 actually excellent ministers would be women. More than 1/3 of minsiters serving large churches are women, 1/2 of the "listening to experience" group of 12 ministers who had grown their churches significantly were women, there are plenty of women serving "Breakthrough congregations..." just to name three kinds of excellence that are easily quantified. The Excellence in Ministry conference participants were close to half and half male and female. Frankly, I can't remember the last time I was in a minority of 20% in any ministerial gathering that wasn't mostly Evangelical in 20 years.)
Anyway, I WOULD expect this kind of review of bias from a group of people doing RESEARCH at HARVARD, because, if this is not a huge sampling error, it sure LOOKS like a huge sampling error, and it needs explanation, if not remediation.
Is it a difference that makes no difference? Hardly. I'm only an informal expert on this subject, but every study I've ever seen suggests that there are profound differences in how men and women receive their education and go about developing in their careers and in what they most value from their experience. So, thirdly, this is a disappointment because I think a better sample would have given them better information for the current, real world, in which, last I heard, considerably more than 50% of persons in ministerial formation are, in fact, women.
Temporarly Wallowing in Exasperation and Disappointment,
Your (Female) Excellence in Ministry Blogger