Community is critical to health and well-being in both personal and professional sectors. This can be incredibly challenging for clergy, who can struggle with their own vulnerability in spaces where they are expected to be the support for others. Iron Sharpening Iron is a program that we hope evolves to include a vibrant network of women whose stories inspire and challenge one another, creating a diverse tapestry of experience that the next generation of women clergy can look to as they start their own professional journey.
This community is important because researchers have noted how the lack of role models and social support can impede the development of leadership identity, as well as how the lack of access to networks can hinder career advancement. The cumulative effect of gender bias not only in the church but in society more broadly can also affect women’s own self-perceptions and self-understanding, which in turn can provide additional barriers to women’s advancement in leadership positions. The organizational structures and practices that favor men (or behaviors commonly associated with men) often communicate, even if unintentionally, that women are not suited to leadership roles, which consequently can interfere with a woman’s ability to see herself and be seen by others as a leader. The alumni of Iron Sharpening Iron will begin to pick apart that structure as each participant affirms the call of women in church leadership.