God Loves Women

A blog sharing my love of God, the love He has for women and my frustration that the Church often doesn't realise this

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Are UK Christian Conferences Sexist?

Posted by God Loves Women on November 13, 2013 at 6:40 PM

After the hoo-hah that began when “The Nines” Leadership Conference chose to have only 4 female speakers while having 110 male speakers, was brought to public attention yesterday by Rachel Held Evans yesterday, @jonathonmerritt, a US blogger collated the male and female speakers at various high profile US Christian conferences. Helen Austin (@helen_a13- the blogger formally known as Fragmentz) mentioned that it would be useful to have a UK version, so the two of us set about doing this, with some help from various people giving us suggestions of conferences to include.

 

Where possible we’ve sourced the information about speakers from the online recordings after the events. Where that hasn’t been possible, we’ve looked at the contributors listed for future events. We have included the number of women and men who contributed, and the overall amount of presentations done by men and women (some speakers contribute multiple times). We’ve included married couples who spoke together as “couples” and have mentioned other interesting things like whether the women who are contributors are married to men who are also contributors. 

 

We have done our best to gather the correct information, please do email me on [email protected] if there are ay alternations or additions.  So here goes...

 

Spring Harvest 2013 (Minehead 1)

27 men (69%) | Women 12 (31%)

Presentations by: Men 59 (71%) | Women 23 (29%) | [Couples 3]

 

New Wine 2013 (London South East)

Mainstage: 14 men (82%) | 3 women (18%) (67% of the women were married to male conference speakers)

Overall: 65 men (68%) | Women 30 (32%) (48% of women were speaking about relationships, children, abuse etc.)

Presentations by: Men 96 (73%) | Women 35 (27%) | [Couples 25]

 

 

Greenbelt 2013 (confirmed by conference organisers)

71 men (61%) | 45 women (39%)

Presentations by: Men 132 (65%) Women 72 (35%)| [Couples 1]

 

 

Keswick 2013

21 men (100%) 0 women (0%)

 

HTB Leadership Conference 2013

Mainstage: 5 men (83%) | 1 woman (17%)

Overall: 36 men 36 (84%) | 7 women (16%)

Presentations by: Men 48 (87%) Women 7 (13%) (57% of women were on a panel with at least 4 men each) (1 woman married to a male speaker at the conference)

 

Detling 2013 (information from website speaker profiles)

13 men (72%) | 5 women (18%) | [5 couples]

 

Hillsong Conference 2014 (information from website)

4 men (80%) | 1 woman (20%) (she is married to a male speaker at the conference) | [1 couple]

 

Westpoint 2013 (updated by Dave Bish, who spoke at the event)

14 men (88%) | 2 women (12%) (1 co-led a seminar, another married to a male speaker at the conference)

Presentations by: Men 22 (92%) | Women 2 (9%)

 

CNMAC 2013 (from website speaker profiles)

Mainstage: 7 men (70%) | 3 women (30%)

Overall: 25 men (71%) | 10 women (29%)

 

Creation Fest 2013

27 men (87%) | 4 women (13%)

Presentations by: Men 53 (90%) Women 6 (10%) [Couples 5]

 

Faithcamp

Mainstage: 5 men (83%) | 1 woman (17%) (she is married to a male conference speaker)

Mainstage presentations by: Men 11 (91%) | Women1 (9%)

General: 14 men (70%) | 6 women (30%)

General presentations by: Men 34 (76%) Women 11 (24%) (18% were on “women’s issues” )

 

Youthwork Summit 2013 (figures updated by Martin Saunders, conference organiser, who has said it was deliberate to ensure this gender balance)

15 men (48%) | 16 women (52%) [1 couple]

 

Youthwork Conference 2014 (Taken from website contributors list)

20 men (65%) | 11 women (35%)

 

Momentum 2013

24 men 24 (77%) | 7 women 7 (23%)

Presentations by: Men 63 (75%) Women 21 (25%) (57% of female speakers were married to male conference speakers)

 

Soul Survivor 2013

21 men 21 (70%) | 9 women (30%) (33% of female speakers were married to male conference speakers)

Presentations by: Men 58 (73%) Women 22 (27%)

 

Newday 2013

16 men (70%) | 7 women (30%) (1 female speaker was married to a male speaker - 14%)

Presentations by: Men 19 (67%) Women 9 (33%)

 

One Event 2013 (formally Grapevine)

Mainstage: 8 men (89%) | 1 woman (11%)

Seminars: 6 couples running 6 seminar streams

 

Baptist assembly 2014 (from website contributors)

3 men (75%) | 1 woman (25%)

 

Word Alive 2014 (from website contributors)

4 men (80%) | 1 woman (20%)

 

National Day Of Prayer 2013 (from website round up of the day)

14 men (88%) | 2 women (12%)

 

Street Angels CNI Conference 2013 (from Paul Blakey, conference organiser)

6 men (50%) | 6 women (50%) | 1 couple

 

Global Connections 2014 (information from Eddie Arthur, involved in conference organising)

1 man (50%) | 1 woman (50%) (conference will include more discussion, less front led content)

 

New Horizon

37 men (86%) | Women 6 (14%)

Presentations by: Men 64 (86%) | Women 10 (14%) | [Couple 1]

 

 

Big Church Day Out 2013 (confirmed by Wendy Beech-Ward)

6 men (75%) | 2 women (25%) | 4 all male bands | 4 collectives (mainly men with some women)

(These were musicians rather than speakers)

 

Church and Media Conference 2013 (confirmed by Andrew Graystone, conference organiser)

4 men (44%) | 5 women (56%) 

 

Children and Families Conference 2013 (late addition to the list)

Presentations by: 19 men (61%) | 12 women (39%)

 

We were unable to gather any data on the Christian Resources Exhibition.

 

Some great responses to these stats are:

"On the Youth Work Summit and female speakers" by Martin Saunders

"Where are the women?" by Jenny Baker

"Hate Something, Change Something" by Steve Holmes

"Thoughts on Quotas" by Jenny Baker

"On Sexism and Events: An Organisers Perspective" by Kevin Bennett

 

Thanks to Hannah Mudge (@boudledidge) for helping with these charts!!

Categories: The Church, Men and the Church, Women and the Church

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21 Comments

Reply UKviewer
1:51 AM on November 14, 2013 
On the face of the statistics shown here, it would appear that the contention that Christian Conferences are indeed sexist? But, I wonder if the statistics are skewed by the fact that many women may not be in a position or willing to put themselves forward for public speaking engagements or are working in spheres which are not part of the Christian conference circuit.

When I think of the representation of women as Clergy in the CofE, including many who are acknowledged public speakers such as Maggi Dawn, Sally Hitchener, Kate Botley .Than there are the many great women Clergy bloggers, who have much to offer, why are they not being given opportunities to take their message to a wider audience. I'm a little disturbed that we don't seem more representation from the many brilliant Clergy out there? Many Lay Women are coming to the fore, notably Dr Bex Lewis, Dr Sarah Batts, Vicky Beeching et al. They have lots to contribute and seem to be getting more exposure, perhaps because of their academic success and prominent public roles in CODEC and the Media.

I wonder how the organisers of these events plan their line ups? Do they choose a topic and than seek speakers or do they choose the speakers and tailor the topics to fit around them? It would be good to know.

I've attended training at places like CWR, where there seems a pretty even breakdown between male and female tutors, so it's teaching institutions seems to have a balance, it's just the conerences that might need to review their choice of speakers.
Reply db
4:20 AM on November 14, 2013 
Seems like some slow progress happening.

Those who get platforms at conferences are going to be somewhat reflective of what happens locally. Unlikely that someone gets their first speaking "gig" at a big event if they've had no local opportunity. As a man representing one of the numbers in the data above I'm trying to give women more opportunities in the ministry I'm involved in - and the calibre of the women on my team is phenomenal, and that's not to mention the brilliant women who do the same role as me in other parts of the country. Our ministry staff team nationally is 50:50.

There's also the question of what kind of people get given opportunities... just pastors? In which case the pool is still very heavily male (whether or not someone thinks that is right)... But why should those be the only speakers, especially at conferences. Something I liked at the HTB leaders conference was hearing from those in business as well as church/ministry leaders. Ele Mumford was by far the best speaker at that event.

I'm helping to organise a conference in early January where we've got CEOs and campaigners and people from various other context among our speaking team - I think it'll work out at 4 women out of 10 speakers (one of whom is married to the person they're doing a relationships seminar with...) ..which feels like a step in the right direction... especially for a Newfrontiers event. While we're holding on to Elders being male it seems to me that the application of that should be opening up as many other opportunities as possible.

Not that platform ministry is the ultimate measure of things... the mouth matters but the rest of the body is at least as important if not more. At events like these I'd rather we just don't consider the gender of speakers and just focus on the quality... which would presumably even things out in time. In the meantime perhaps a little positive discrimination wouldn't go a miss.
Reply Sam
5:58 AM on November 14, 2013 
BCDO is a music event. There weren't any speakers.

There are some very high profile women speakers out there. And they DO get invited to speak.

You can't blame the organisers of events if the pool of women to choose from is significantly smaller than the pool of men!
Reply eleanor
1:57 PM on November 14, 2013 
An interesting piece. Is there any info to your knowledge on the number of female only conferences? These may play a part in the spiritual development of people but be less visible on the national conference.
Reply Fiona Lynne
2:31 PM on November 14, 2013 
This is really interesting. Thanks for taking the time to do this research. It would be fascinating to hear from some of the conference organisers themselves - I've been hearing so many thoughts on why this bias might exist, but it'd be good to hear from those actually making the decisions. Do you know of any who have provided input to this discussion already?
Reply Joel Parslow
5:09 AM on November 15, 2013 
Is it possible to find information from some previous years, see if there are any trends or changes? like do this for 2006 & 2000 and see if the overall is getting more or less equal or if its staying stagnant?
Reply Nicholas Rognli-Olsen Noble
5:40 AM on November 15, 2013 
The question is not how many women were speaking there and how many men. The question is; are the women who could potentially be asked to speak being overlooked because of their gender. these statistics do not show the answer to that question.
Reply Anon
6:55 AM on November 15, 2013 
It would be a little more helpful to have a chart of the percentages or the difference between the percent of male and female speakers rather than the totals. That way we can easily see those with a strong bias and those with a more equal representation
Reply Anon
6:56 AM on November 15, 2013 
Oh, now the page has reloaded and the percentage chart has appeared. Ignore me!
Reply CN
7:10 AM on November 15, 2013 
Sam says...
BCDO is a music event. There weren't any speakers.

No, but then again the problem is with the Christian world mooe widely - it is a LOT more difficult for a woman to enter into the world of Christian public speaking/preaching when so many churches actively discourage women from doing so because they think women shouldn't be "in leadership". Women have to work a lot harder to have any kind of public speaking ministry and many give up because of the backlash. There are exceptions (like Vicky Beeching, Sue Rinaldi, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Maria Rodriguez-Toth), and conferences should make a point of inviting as many women speakers as they can. If they care at all about equality, that is.
There are some very high profile women speakers out there. And they DO get invited to speak.

You can't blame the organisers of events if the pool of women to choose from is significantly smaller than the pool of men!
Reply Daniel
8:22 AM on November 15, 2013 
While this is a very interesting article, the title is ridiculous! UK Christian conferences are not sexist. They don't set out to do this. Whoever spent their time researching this might want to spend more time researching how many women Christian speakers there are out there compared to men. If I want a plumber, there's a very strong chance that I'll get a guy if I ring round. 40 years ago, there were probably hardly any women speakers (or women plumbers) and in 40 years time there will probably be so many more women Christian speakers and plumbers. It's progress. We're moving. Get off the bandwagon and rejoice that it's happening. Things just take time.
Reply Nic
9:58 AM on November 16, 2013 
Daniel says...
While this is a very interesting article, the title is ridiculous! UK Christian conferences are not sexist. They don't set out to do this. Whoever spent their time researching this might want to spend more time researching how many women Christian speakers there are out there compared to men. If I want a plumber, there's a very strong chance that I'll get a guy if I ring round. 40 years ago, there were probably hardly any women speakers (or women plumbers) and in 40 years time there will probably be so many more women Christian speakers and plumbers. It's progress. We're moving. Get off the bandwagon and rejoice that it's happening. Things just take time.


Can I point out two things that you don't seem to be allowing for?

One: there's no suggestion that there's a conscious bias against women speakers being shown by the statistics. All the stats, and the people blogging about it are trying to show, is that we aren't at the point of equality yet.

And two: the fact that things are better than they used to be, does not mean that we can sit back, rest on our laurels, pat ourselves on the back and say "Well, the hard work has been done; time will take care of the rest!" We cannot rely on inertia to ensure that women speakers will somehow appear from nowhere to redress the balance. We still have a lot of work to do, to make sure that women speakers and leaders continue to be found, continue to be nurtured, continue to become known and accessible for speaking engagements.

When there are so many male speakers, plumbers, engineers, etc, in a field, what tends to happen is that they - and everyone around - become used to the lack of women in their midst. In the absence of people trying actively to improve the situation and draw sufficient women into the situation, that imbalance doesn't magically get better; it hardens and becomes expected, and women themselves start to be blamed for not getting involved. And then we start seeing the resurgence of the bad old attitudes of "Well, women aren't really suited to it anyway."
Reply Mark Hewerdine
11:41 AM on November 16, 2013 
I wonder if anyone's done any research into the ratio of men compared with women who comment on blogs about underrepresentation of women in public life/prominent roles, and what percentage of the men who comment argue that the blog doesn't prove anything/it's just coz women aren't up to the job/the statistics are lying/women don't want to so it's their own fault/some other reason why the world isn't really sexist after all ;)
Reply Bev Murrill
2:44 PM on November 16, 2013 
The evidence is overwhelming... and the interesting thing is that so many say that they ask women and get a refusal... maybe they aren't asking the right women. There are many many many female speakers who would say yes if asked. Many women have not been given the right/sufficient training for speaking/leadership and therefore are not confident, yet there are sufficient women who would be willing... but they're not asked. It's time for change, not just in the conferences, but in opportunities for women to be readied for such opportunities to share their God given messages with the wider world... the world beyond women's conferences.
Reply jo
1:12 PM on January 1, 2014 
Phillipians 2: 5-7
Reply Jo
1:16 PM on January 1, 2014 
Phillipians 2:5-7
Reply Jo
1:24 PM on January 1, 2014 
As a woman who has been to bible collage and spoken at womans events I do not feel I need to be asked to speak at confrences to feel loved by God or the church in general. I just need to remind myself of what God says in Phillipians 2: 5-7
Reply Jonathan
11:14 AM on June 6, 2014 
It's an interesting article, thank you.

I am struggling a little though with just raw data that gives no more qualitative information. At how many of these conferences is there a female keynote speaker, for example? And the Baptist Assembly, well that 1 female speaker is actually the one in charge of the whole Baptist Union! (And several sessions had no main speaker but were facilitated by an equal number of women and men).

Is there any chance we could get a more expanded picture?
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