A few weeks ago, Liz Truss became the UK Prime Minister. She is the third female UK Prime Minister, following Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May, all members of the Conservative Party. I find it remarkable that the other more liberal UK political parties have yet to place a woman as the party leader. Other political women leaders come to mind: Angela Merkel, Indira Gandhi, Jacinda Ardern, and Sanna Marin. Yet, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Russia, and France have yet to elect a female head of government.
During my 34 years of professional work, I was never supervised directly by a woman. The VPs of the Natural Gas Division and LNG were American woman, but I did not report directly to either of them. My manager was a British male. I did interact and present to these female executives but did not interact day-to-day. When I managed an energy trading IT project, all my staff were female professionals and highly competent. This all-female team was social, caring, and productive. They delivered and exceeded expectations.
Energy trading, during my tenure, was male dominated. It wasn’t that women could not trade equally to men, but masculine testosterone flowed on the trade floor. Profit was highly valued, but assertive style typically won the leadership roles. Women who showed assertiveness were considered ‘difficult’ and those who were quietly competent were not ‘managerial.’ Only a few women could balance this tightrope and move stereotype into a managerial position, something the men rarely had to do.
When I was working, I tried not to be biased, but I am quite certain that my age and the male-dominated culture tainted me. I went to engineering classes which were 10% female, a record enrollment. Surely, I was more progressive! Yet women had to work harder and score higher just to break even. I remember in the early 1980’s, a young female geologist asking a senior division manager why there were no women in leadership positions. The grey-haired manager replied, “Honey, that’s a good question. We will consider it. Would you like to be a manager someday?”
My wife supervised professionals, and I have learned much from her wisdom. She explained to me how difficult it is for a woman to succeed in a company dominated by men. I have been corrected by her on several occasions when we discussed work situations involving women. My male paradigm is hard to break. Luckily, I have someone close by that corrects my false assumptions.
I retired from one of the largest energy companies in the world and there has never been a woman President or CEO. The newly named President is male, and most likely will remain in that position for up to ten years. The senior leadership of worldwide energy trading has been all male until recently, when two female VPs were installed. This is progress, but at a snail’s pace.
Given that men have physically dominated the earth since before civilizations evolved, it isn’t far-fetched to extrapolate that it takes time to level the playing field. US women have only voted for about 100 years. The Supreme Court ruled for gender equality in the workplace during my lifetime. Interview questions, such as “Are you planning to get pregnant?” were deemed discriminatory during my employment years. When I first started working, my wife joined the same large company nine months later. My supervisor came into my office and shut the door. He said, “I hope you are not upset about your wife making more salary than you.” She had a master’s degree and initial salaries were higher for those with graduate degrees. I thought it was great that she had a higher salary as she deserved it. My supervisor thought my male ego would be bruised. He was twenty years older than me and from his perspective, thought it might be an issue.
Religious institutions still struggle with gender equality. Woman pastors must dress conservatively, tread carefully, and speak softly, lest they arouse the older generations. My experiences at seminary and at my church have exposed me to the difficulties of being female Elders. It isn’t remotely fair. The generations to come will benefit from those in the front lines of gender equality. It is up to my generation to recognize the errors of the past and what the Kingdom should entail. It’s not only fair, it is better for all.