Reflection on Women, Work & Calling

By Joanna Meyer | Executive Director – Women, Work & Calling

Last fall I became a first-time author when I published the short book Women, Work, & Calling: Step into Your Place in God’s World (InterVarsity Press).

I was not prepared for the messages that I began to receive from readers. One woman sent this message via LinkedIn, “I started reading [your book] while on a business trip in London [and] sat weeping in a pub. I felt affirmed in the ways that God has created me to use creativity, strategy, and all this ambition to be a part of His redemptive work through my current role at a tech startup.”

This woman was not alone. I’ve heard women around the world voice a common theme: we feel seen and understood. Their response reflects a gap in vocational discipleship that leads many Christian women to feel a disconnect between their personal and professional lives. Addressing this gap invites us to ask deeper questions about the roles women play in our businesses, industries, and communities.

At an individual level, vocational discipleship begins with affirming women’s work as integral to the mission of God. Together with men, women bear God’s image and join Christ in the renewal of all things (Gen 1:27, 28 and Colossians 1:16-20). Whether they’re leading board meetings for a Fortune 500 company or managing payroll for a small business across town, women need an integrated vision of calling, one in which their professional roles are valued alongside the relational roles emphasized in their faith communities. As one reader observed, “This is the first time I’ve heard that my career isn’t in competition with the other areas of my life.”

Organizationally, we must consider whether our workplace dynamics encourage men and women to co- labor for the greater good. Author Carolyn Custis James reminds us that God intends the male/female partnership to be a blessed alliance, “Having created his male and female image bearers, ‘God blessed them,’ then spread before them the global mandate to rule and subdue on his behalf. According to Genesis, male/female relationships are a kingdom strategy—designed to be an unstoppable force for good in the world.”

From Deborah, who partnered with Barak to lead the Israelites in battle (Judges 4) to Lydia, whose entrepreneurial skill and relational network helped found the Philippine church (Acts 6:14-15), we see women using their vocational influence, skill, and resources, to accomplish God’s purposes in the world. What prevents us from seeing women express similar leadership and service in our businesses today? Curious leaders with a willingness to move beyond a “one size fits all” approach to talent management will tune their ears to emerging voices within their organizations and broaden their relational networks to include female colleagues.

Structurally, wise leaders will examine whether current ways of working support the scope of employees’ lives. McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace report, the largest study on the state of women in corporate America, revealed a trend with implications for any employer concerned about staffing. While the number of women in C-Suite, VP, and SVP roles has grown, these gains are inconsistent across organizations’ leadership pipelines. “For every woman at the director level who gets promoted to the next level, two women directors are choosing to leave their company” (Women in the Workplace, 2022).

A key factor affecting employee retention: workplace flexibility. The pandemic showed new ways of working were possible, now workers of either gender report flexible work as a “top 3” employee benefit, with 49% of women leaders say flexibility is a key factor they consider when deciding to join or stay with a company. Women are no less ambitious professionally, but they “are defying the…notion that work and life are incompatible—and that one comes at the expense of the other” (Women in the Workplace, 2023). Scripture affirms women who integrate caretaking with economic productivity (Prov 31:10-31). How might today’s business leaders design workplaces that encourage it, too?

What might be possible if emerging business leaders, both male and female, realized the power and potential of collaboration for God’s purposes and others’ good?

Author bio: Joanna Meyer is the founder and executive director of Women, Work, & Calling at Denver Institute for Faith & Work, an international initiative equipping Christian women for godly influence in public life. She also served as the organization’s director of public engagement and is host of the Faith & Work Podcast. She is the author of the award-winning book Women, Work, & Calling: Step into Your Place in God’s World (InterVarsity Press) and has written for Propel Women, Common Good Magazine, and Faith Driven Entrepreneur.

Center for Faithful Business

Seattle Pacific University

Dr. JoAnn Flett, Executive Director

Email

cfb@spu.edu

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