In this International Women’s Day reflection, Rev Kath Behan looks at a Uniting Church initiative designed to improve our leadership diversity.
The theme for International Women’s Day 2020 is #EachforEqual, meaning “an equal world is an enabled world”.
It emphasises that ultimately the responsibility rests on all of us, women and men together, to make sure that we are doing all we can to create spaces for one another to thrive and flourish and be the best versions of ourselves.
This focus on diversity as a shared responsibility lies at the heart of how the Synod is exploring what kind of leaders the church needs as we head into the next decade, in the midst of a complex, uncertain and changing world.
There is no question that we have extremely talented individuals within our whole organisation. Yet despite our best efforts and ideals, our leadership at the higher levels has the potential for much greater diversity in gender, culture and geography, and therefore greater rigour.
What then does it mean to model Plentiful Leadership across our organisation that harnesses the skills and capabilities of untapped leadership resources?
This is a question that the Synod has been responding to intentionally since the 32nd Synod in Session in 2016, when it was resolved that a diversity task group be established to workshop representation on boards, committees and commissions. In response, in 2017 a deliberate developmental strategy for identifying and preparing people to take on roles on Synod boards, committees and commissions was implemented. This has been a productive strengthening of leadership representation in those spaces.
The next iteration of this work has deepened through an extensive engagement across the life of the church with our agencies, schools and colleges, congregations, presbyteries and external experts. We have been encouraged by the commitment and buy-in that we have received across the board with this process. Both women and men have provided their insight into how the Uniting Church in Queensland can improve its leadership diversity at the higher levels, unified by a common goal of building a better church.
This engagement has resulted in a targeted pilot approach to building capacity specifically in women in leadership positions. We have identified that our organisation is missing out on the immense capabilities and voices of women in key leadership positions, and so this pilot is the first within hopefully a number of future-focused leadership development programs intended to strengthen our Plentiful Leadership.
The Women in Leadership program was launched on 25 February. It is a whole-of-Synod focused mentoring and leadership development program that is fundamentally about building a stronger organisation that flourishes and authentically reflects who we are as the Uniting Church and the community on the ground. It’s about building strong networks of support between women and men across the whole of the church. By investing in women to improve their leadership capacity and skill set, the church as a whole will reap rewards.
Find out more about the Women in Leadership program.
Rev Kath Behan is the Director, Mission Engagement with the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod. Find out more about International Women’s Day.