Women in Leadership Forum held in Sydney
Event launches new program to promote and develop women leaders in the Army.
Australia Eastern Territory leaders Commissioners James and Jan Condon initiated a new Women in Leadership Program to “advocate for leadership equality at every level,” and launched it with an inaugural Women in Leadership Forum Oct. 28 in Sydney.
“If we are to move to greater leadership equality for The Salvation Army, we must actively engage and purposefully address this issue that affects not only us, but is a challenge in organizations and countries around the world,” said Colonel Janet Munn, a member of the Women in Leadership Committee, during the forum.
In her introductory remarks, Munn read a section of The Salvation Army’s Orders and Regulations for officers from 1895: “One of the leading principles upon which the Army is based is the right of women to have the right to an equal share with men in the work of publishing salvation to the world…She may hold any position of authority or power in the Army from that of a Local Officer to that of the General…Women must be treated as equal with men in all the intellectual and social relationships in life.”
Yet today, she said, while more than half of all Salvation Army officers are female (53 percent), only 7.9 percent of them are in decision-making roles and 1.7 percent are married women. In response, the committee aims to promote and develop the skills and self-awareness required of leadership positions while identifying and addressing systemic issues of gender equality in leadership positions.
“There are many women in our corps and centers with amazing gifts and abilities who need to be empowered for disciple making and mission,” Jan Condon said. “We need to be providing even more opportunities for women, employees and officers, to utilize their gifts to the optimum rather than just being slotted into an assumed role.”
The event featured Major Danielle Strickland, Canadian officer and author of “The Liberating Truth: How Jesus Empowers Women,” along with Sharon Callister, CEO of Aged Care Plus, and Dawn O’Neil, former CEO of beyondblue and Lifesline.
Strickland provided a framework for a global empowerment strategy to change the current statistics on women in leadership. First, she said, think big—the gospel is a big plan to redeem the entire Earth.
“Gender and equality, like sin, has a gravitational force to it. It’s just the way the world is going to go because it’s so broken,” she said. “If we’re not intentional and don’t keep the big picture in mind, if we don’t see what God wants to do on the earth…we’ll naturally become just like everybody else. That brokenness, that sin, that inequality will be where we land.”
Strickland said The Salvation Army, as part of its created being, aimed to liberate women and ensure no woman would be discriminated against based on gender. “We read that from 1895,” she said, “but literally, systemically there’s no answer to the statistics other than that’s what is happening.”
In order to think big, Strickland said, we have to start small. This is a hard way to start, she said, because it’s intimate, but every world changer started small—even Jesus.
Finally, Strickland said the secret to true freedom is inside of us.
“You’re the monster; so am I…This very thing that we want to fight, this prejudicial treatment, I do it all the time, even with my own kids,” Strickland said. “If we’re going to think big about God’s plan for the world and we’re going to start small with the individual decisions of how we live our lives…none of it’s going to matter if we don’t go into the very deepest places of who we are and change there.”
She referenced the two conditions Founder William Booth said came with salvation.
“One, it had to change the character of a person. That’s this depth thing…Not just their behavior, the fruit of their character, but their character themselves,” Strickland said. “This brokenness inside of them has to be fixed. And then, the conditions a person lives in. That’s what separated, I believe, The Salvation Army from other churches of those days. We understood that salvation was not just personal…Our hearts those deep places have to change. But those systems, those statistics, those have to change, too.”
A series of workshops are scheduled across New South Wales and Queensland with a goal for the forums to become a hub for personal leadership development and networking, where attendees representing a wide variety of Salvation Army programs will be able to tap into a wealth of new ideas and valuable resources.
See more about the program at salvos.org.au/wil