Women in Theological Leadership

Across all our programs, we seek to support women in theological leadership to help correct a fundamental inequity in the academy, Church, and society.

Women in Theological Leadership bridges several of Scholar Leaders’ programs. Through this emphasis, we seek to advocate for women in theological leadership by organizing the Women’s Peer Leader Forum, a safe space for top-tier women leaders to counsel one another through the challenges of leadership and to develop as theologians; by partnering with Duke Divinity School to sponsor four women for ThM studies in preparation for their PhDs; and by devoting special attention to women Leader Studies scholarship recipients.

Women from the third WPLF (2019) enjoyed counseling one another.

The Women’s Peer Leader Forum hosts a cohort of eight women for five years. It has four goals.

  1. This group allows these women to encourage one another as they move from their PhD studies into full-fledged careers. To that end, the group emphasizes conversations about women’s positions in institutional and intellectual leadership.
  2. As some of the past generation’s challenges shift, these younger women consider how to navigate the new opportunities and challenges arising for women in theology.
  3. We have noticed that women who are new faculty and executives rarely have opportunities to do research or pursue intellectual professionalization because they are so overburdened with other demands. The group’s members mutually challenge one another to seek and create these opportunities.
  4. Globally, we are seeing more groups emerging for women in theology – a wonderful development. But many of those groups are large and include all women at all levels of theological education.

This fellowship is a safe space in which these eight women can have honest conversations about the above topics that will then trickle outward into larger institutional spaces

Over the years, we have noticed that some of the strongest applicants to our Leader Studies doctoral scholarship program are women. However, these applicants have had to overcome many barriers – family pressures, denominational exclusion, cultural biases – in order to realize their full potential in theological leadership. They earn their PhDs but then may only have a decade or two left in which to share their theological wisdom.

Our dream is for women from the Majority World to be able to pursue their gifts in theology much earlier in their careers so that they can have more abundant, longer-term impact on their churches and societies.

So we have initiated a pilot ThM with Duke Divinity School to address the educational inequalities young women face. Right now, four Majority World women are earning ThM degrees from Duke as preparation to apply to the world’s elite PhD programs. Our goal is that this pilot will counteract some of the educational headwinds these women have faced and prepare them to move them more quickly toward global impact.

ThM Duke Divinity School
Anne Zaki at a board meeting

Within Leader Studies, 30% of currently supported scholars are women. We provide robust support for these women as they progress toward completing their PhDs and entering full-fledged work as theologians and leaders through an affinity group that meets twice per semester to tackle topics related to their intellectual, spiritual, and institutional growth.