I'm sorry. To the women I failed to raise up because of fear, I'm sorry. To the women who felt displaced because I found my place, I'm sorry. To the women I saw as competition, and not as sisters in Christ, I'm sorry.
A couple of years ago I was convicted of how the scarcity principle was driving my leadership when reading Jo Saxton's 'Influential'. Titled 'More than Enchanting' in the US, this book is mandatory reading for those I am investing in. It was Jo's chapter on Influential Relationships that broke me:
"She's become the pioneer, the rare one who leapt over the brick wall, shattered the glass ceiling and navigated the labyrinth of choices and decision to get where she is. And because she's the woman on the team, she is to some degree incomparable. She has risen to the top, and that's significant because only one woman, it seems, is allowed at the top at any one time."
These words broke me. Jo had put words to something I had felt and experienced but never understood, or could put words to. There is only room for one woman at the top. Since then this has become so obvious to me. I see it in myself, I see it in the women around me. I sit on boards and committees as the only woman, and know that my place here here is at the expense of another incredible woman who was probably more qualified than half the men at the table.
Today, there is often space for women in ministry, but so often only one place. One senior woman on the team. One woman on the conference committee. One female keynote speaker. It's no surprise women often feel the need to compete with one another rather than support and encourage one another.
What inspired me to change this? Mike Breen shared some great thoughts around scarcity and abundance at a conference in Melbourne a few years ago (summary here). We can choose to live out of a scarcity mindset, letting fear of missing out drive us. Assuming there is not enough in the world, and therefore feel the need to grab at what we can reach, for fear of missing out. Or we can choose to live in an abundance mindset. We can choose to believe that there is infinite room at the table for those God is calling to lead in his Kingdom, men and women. Mike demonstrated this belief, using his place to make space for others, particularly Jo Saxton. This inspired me to do the same.
So this is my desire, this is what I try to live out. To use my space at the table, to make space for others. To never again be the 'one woman' at the table. Every committee invite I get, every speaking invite, I try to bring another woman with me. To believe that the table is big enough, to believe that God is big enough, to deal with many strong women in leadership. To offer friendship with other women in leadership, even those who see me as competition. To be the person who doesn't dance on the glass ceiling she has managed to break through, but who kneels down and cuts a hole to pull other's through.
I want to put the challenge out there. Men and women, who can you reach out to and lift alongside you?
Bree Mills is currently the Associate Pastor at Glen Waverley Anglican Church. She is a Ridley Graduate who has been worked in youth ministry for 12 years at various churches, until moving into her current role in 2013, overseeing missional discipleship at GWAC. She is undertaking Postgraduate study at Morling College in the area of Missional Leadership, with a focus on congregational change, and is involved with various missional movements around Australia. She has worked with both large and small churches to reinvigorate youth ministries, and launch missional communities. She is passionate about equipping the church to engage with the local community, encouraging women in leadership, and building healthy and sustainable teams.