Job status of women head clergy: Findings from the national congregations study, 1998, 2006, and 2012


This paper investigates occupational gender inequality among head clergy in U.S. religious congregations. Prior research emphasized the stratification of the clergy occupational structure and the under-representation of women in head clergy positions. This paper focuses on women who are leading congregations. Data are from the National Congregations Study (1998, 2006, and 2012). I review the representation of women among head clergy, investigate the differences in congregational characteristics between those led by men and women, and explore whether men or women are more likely to have positions with non-standard employment forms. Findings show a mixed picture regarding equality for women clergy. By 2012, while women are still less likely than men to be head clergy, among head clergy there is not a significant difference between women and men in the likelihood of being a senior pastor (supervising other clergy). Also, there are no significant differences related to non-standard employment. The only significant congregational member characteristic is that women are more likely to lead predominantly white congregations. However, in 1998, 2006, and 2012, women were consistently significantly more likely than men to lead smaller congregations. While there may be few other differences between men and women head clergy job statuses, congregation size is arguably what matters most. Women’s lack of representation in larger congregations suggests continued gender inequality among head clergy.


Sociology and Anthropology

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© 2017 The author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)


Occupational sex segregation, Religious congregations, Women clergy

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