I’ve been invited to present a case study on gender and leadership at the North American Mission Leaders Conference next weekend. After generally convincing myself to not be overwhelmed by all that I don’t know, I set my face toward Charlotte (that’s where we’re meeting) and got to work. It’s been a great learning process and I expect that learning will continue. I’ve also been asked to sit on a panel for further discussion about diversity that’s broader than just about gender.
The case study is, essentially, biographical. It addresses some of the ways Wycliffe currently and historically engages both men and women in leadership roles, but does so through a focus on my personal experience as I moved from the role of Production Specialist to Senior Vice President. Those of you who journeyed with me through those first five years of my time with Wycliffe will remember how crazy that felt most of the time.
As one who likes…okay, needs context in order to comprehend well, I tell a bit more of my own story than might be necessary for some. The following recollection of gender “inequality” is part of that context.
It’s a Boy’s World?
Between the ages of 3 and 8, I lived in a neighborhood dominated by boys. By the time I was in school, I was the only girl of my age within the two block radius. My next door neighbor, Willie Dutter, was the youngest of 11 kids. Bobby Bernard five houses up and across the street was an only child. Clyde Bishop was one –of a few boys who were all significantly older.
These were the good old days of playing outside and I remember feeling the inequality of gender difference when I had to interrupt play and go inside to use the bathroom while my companions could simply step behind a bush. I have fond memories of learning how to shuffle a deck of “real” cards—the kind we didn’t own in my Baptist household—as well as how to drown grasshoppers for our mud pies. We played mad scientist, secret agent, cowboys, and war.
One day we were preparing for an afternoon of war and Bobby decided that I could not be a regular Army guy like they were – that it would be inappropriate for me to throw grenades and jump into foxholes and shoot commies (the common enemy in the mid-1960’s). While I was considering my defense, he continued with his declaration that the solution to this dilemma was simple: I had to be the General.
I liked the sound of that.
So, when did you first realize that gender was going to be a deciding factor in the roles you could play in life? I’d love to hear your story.