Female Leadership and Role Congruity within the Clergy: Communal Leaders Experience No Gender Differences Yet Agentic Women Continue to Suffer Backlash
Role congruity theory predicts that female leaders will experience prejudice because the role of leader aligns more closely with the stereotypic male gender role than it does with the stereotypic female role. Yet the theory also states that the context of leadership matters. Female leaders in communal contexts often do not experience prejudice because the communal role is congruent to the female role. The purpose of my study is to examine female leadership within the context of the religious congregation and the profession of the clergy. Using multilevel models to analyze Wave 2 of the U.S. Congregational Life Survey (50,595 congregants in 255 congregations), I tested two competing hypotheses about whether the role of clergyperson is congruous or incongruous for women based on congregants’ perceptions of their leaders. I also hypothesized that female clergy using a more masculine leadership style would experience more prejudice. Results offer support for the hypothesis that female clergy experience role congruity, yet, I also found that they experience prejudice if they use a more masculine leadership style. These findings have implications that suggest that, even though there are behavioral restrictions for women, the profession of clergy is an amenable profession for female leaders.
KeywordsLeadership Leadership styles Sex roles Sex role attitudes Clergy Religious organizations
The author would like to thank Kevin D. Dougherty, Paul Froese, Jerry Z. Park, Lindsay R. Wilkinson, and Angela Reed for their helpful comments.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The author has complied with all ethical standards, and there are no conflicts of interest.
This research used secondary data and received no funding.
The data from the United States Congregational Life Survey were downloaded from the Association of Religion Data Archives at www.thearda.com.
- Allison, P. D. (2001). Missing data. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
- Bartkowski, J. P. (2001). Remaking the godly marriage: Gender negotiation in evangelical families. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
- Carroll, J. W. (2006). God’s potters: Pastoral leadership and the shaping of congregations. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.Google Scholar
- Chaves, M. (1999). Ordaining women: Culture and conflict in religious organizations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Chaves, M. (2004). Congregations in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Eagly, A. H. (1987). Sex differences in social behavior: A social-role interpretation. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc..Google Scholar
- Eagly, A. H., & Carli, L. L. (2007). Through the labyrinth: The truth about how women become leaders. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
- Forward, G. L. (2000). Clergy stress and role metaphors: An exploratory study. Journal of Communication and Religion, 23(2), 158–184.Google Scholar
- Gallagher, S. K. (2003). Evangelical identity and gendered family life. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
- Heilman, M. E., Block, C. J., & Martell, R. F. (1995). Sex stereotypes: Do they influence perceptions of managers? Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 10, 237–252.Google Scholar
- Hoge, D. R., & Wenger, J. E. (2005). Pastors in transition: Why clergy leave local church ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.Google Scholar
- Johnson, S. K., Murphy, S. E., Zewdie, S., & Reichard, R. J. (2008). The strong, sensitive type: Effects of gender stereotypes and leadership prototypes on the evaluation of male and female leaders. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 106(1), 39–60. doi: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2007.12.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Lehman, E. C. (1993b). Gender and work: The case of the clergy. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
- McCullagh, P. (1980). Regression models for ordinal data. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B: Methodological, 42(2), 109–142.Google Scholar
- Nesbitt, P. D. (1997). Feminization of the clergy in America: Occupational and organizational perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Putnam, R. D., & Campbell, D. E. (2010). American grace: How religion divides and unites us. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
- Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
- Schwadel, P., & Dougherty, K. D. (2010). Assessing key informant methodology in congregational research. Review of Religious Research, 51(4), 366–379.Google Scholar
- StataCorp. (2013). Stata multilevel mixed-effects reference manual, release 13. Stata Press. Retrieved from http://www.stata.com/manuals13/me.pdf.
- The Association of Theological Schools. (2013). 2012–2013 Annual data tables. Retrieved from http://docs.ats.edu/uploads/resources/institutional-data/annual-data-tables/2012-2013-annual-data-tables.pdf.
- Wang, J., Xie, H., & Fischer, J. H. (2012). Multilevel models applications using SAS. Berlin: De Gruyter.Google Scholar
- Wilcox, W. B. (2004). Soft patriarchs, new men: How Christianity shapes fathers and husbands. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Woolever, C., & Bruce, D. (2012). Leadership that fits your church: What kind of pastor for what kind of congregation. St. Louis, MI: Chalice Press.Google Scholar
- Zikmund, B. B., Lummis, A. T., & Chang, P. M. Y. (1998). Clergy women: An uphill calling. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.Google Scholar