Four research-based solutions beyond Mike Pence’s ‘Billy Graham Rule.’

by Halee Gray Scott

Nearly four decades have passed since women began entering the workforce in droves, and men and women are still grappling with how to work alongside one another. Since The New York Times published an exposé of film executive Harvey Weinstein, sexual harassment allegations have roiled the country, taking down high-powered men from newsrooms, Hollywood, Wall Street, and Washington, DC. Hundreds of women have stepped forward to share their stories of sexual misconduct in the workplace.

As a survivor of sexual assault, I celebrate the courage of women who have finally spoken truth to power. However, as a researcher and leadership consultant, I watch these developments with some anxiety and worry about the implications for women in the workplace.

For over a decade, I’ve studied the barriers for Christian women in leadership. Like their secular peers, many Christian women encounter leadership limitations as a result of failure to be included in “the old boys club.” That exclusion dramatically reduces their ability to participate in critical decision-making processes.

In the context of these common workplace dynamics, a key question emerges: Will good men in leadership, out of fear of false sexual harassment allegations, withdraw even further from women in the workplace?

In 1948, Billy Graham and a few of his associates drafted the Modesto Manifesto in response to evangelists whose ministries had been derailed by sexual immorality. They pledged to “avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion.” This commitment—although only part of the overall manifesto—became well-known as the “Billy Graham Rule,” in which men vow to not be alone with a woman other than their wives. It’s now practiced by many men, including Vice President Mike Pence.

However, because of the Billy Graham Rule, Christian women often report feeling awkward or alienated in the workplace. They also feel diminished to nothing more than a sexual object.

In my research, I heard from a high-ranking female executive who described the loneliness and impotence she felt due to exclusion from work lunches and company leadership retreats. A female seminary student told of the difficulty in getting a ride to a class with her male peers. A female pastor spoke of her exclusion from the weekly post-sermon review in the church’s cigar room. Hundreds of women testified with a similar story: Male colleagues claimed they were unable to work or meet with them because of their gender.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today

Halee Gray Scott is the director of the Kaleo Project at Denver Seminary, which is focused on enabling churches to build ministries that reach millennials. The author of Dare Mighty Things, she is currently at work on her second book, which explores how men and women can forge effective partnerships in ministry.