Women and the Stained Glass Ceiling

Women are gaining more leadership roles in the Catholic Church, an article on the U.S. Catholic website noted. Women hold high-level administrative positions in varying archdiocese, and they bring a new perspective with them.

Sr. Sharon Euart, a canon lawyer in Maryland, said in the article, “Women tend to be more attentive to things like process and dialogue. This can extend the decision-making process but can generate ownership, understanding, and support.”

While working in administration is not the same as being in the priesthood, it does offer women who feel a strong calling to serve the church an avenue to be a decision-maker. The downside is that many women are unaware of these opportunities. They often assume that since they cannot be ordained there is not a meaningful leadership role for them, noted Shelia Garcia, assistant director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women, and Youth.

Garcia also wants there to be more young women in the pipeline. According to a study by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LWCR, the average age of women church administrators is 59.5. As in many other fields, mentorship is a key component of attracting younger women to church leadership roles.

One hurdle that may keep young women out of church leadership is the salary. According to the LWCR study, the average salary for women administrators was between $20,000-29,000. Kristi Schulenberg, who works in church ministry, said in the article that salary is a concern of hers as she looks at her future. “As a young adult woman, I find it very interesting that many of my friends and I were formed by institutions of Catholic higher education and are doing the work we do because of our experiences there. But when you come out of a Catholic university and have to pay off exorbitant loans, how do you do that when you are making 20 grand working for a diocese?”

Providing mentorship opportunities and offering competitive salaries are two ways to attract younger women to church administration jobs. What else can the Catholic Church do to engage a younger generation of women in religious jobs?

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