Gender Equality: Rethinking the role of religion

The terms sex and gender often get misused. Have you ever heard yourself or another person ask a pregnant woman if she knows the gender of the baby? Not that you should go around correcting people, but this would be impossible. The only thing that can be determined at that point is the sex of the baby.
Current research on sex and gender tells us that the term sex refers specifically to the biological sex organs we are born with, while gender is a concept that serves to represent the internal sense of who we are in terms of masculinity and femininity. A person’s sex at birth can align with their gender identity, in which case a person would be considered cisgender; whereas a person whose sex does not align with their gender identity would be considered transgender.  It is possible, thus, for a person of the male sex to feel and identify as female, and vice versa.


Now that we are clear on the difference between sex and gender, let’s get onto the main topic: gender and religion.

The most popular religions in North America include Christianity (including Catholicism), Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism, Christianity being the most wide-spread. Withinthese religious groups there exist certain traditional understandings related to gender, many of which are still recognized today as legitimate.  The problem with many old traditions related to gender, however, is that they often place females and femininity lower than males and masculinity in the social hierarchy, keeping women down even in today’s world.


The Bible and the Quran, for example, which are regularly read and worshiped by millions of people across the globe, spread explicit messages of sexism and disparagement toward the female community.

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

(1 Timothy 2:12)

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”

(Ephesians 5:22)

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more [strength] than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them [first], [next] refuse to share their beds, [and last] beat them [lightly]; but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means [of annoyance]: For Allah is Most High, great [above you all].”

(Sura 4: 35)

Although not completely to blame, traditional religious beliefs do indeed play a significant role in maintaining the dominance of men over women in today’s modern world; however in Nicolas Kristof’s article Religion and Women, the author shares the view that religion, being as powerful and influential as it is, has the potential to be a significant driver of change for the better.  Kristof specifically mentions areas where this is already happening, citing that:

“[P]aradoxically, the churches in Africa that have done the most to empower women have been conservative ones led by evangelicals and especially Pentecostals. In particular, Pentecostals encourage women to take leadership roles, and for many women this is the first time they have been trusted with authority and found their opinions respected. In rural Africa, Pentecostal churches are becoming a significant force to emancipate women.”

In a second example, Kristof describes another excellent precedent set by the church – the abolition of slavery.

“Each of the Abrahamic faiths accepted slavery. Muhammad owned slaves, and St. Paul seems to have condoned slavery. Yet the pioneers of the abolitionist movement were Quakers and evangelicals like William Wilberforce. People of faith ultimately worked ferociously to overthrow an oppressive institution that churches had previously condoned.”

Moral of the story: if we use our power and influence for good, we can contribute in a largely significant way to the move toward a more inclusive, respectful world.

Sensitivity as Strength (A recommended read for leaders)

A recommended read for those interested in cultivating a sensitive workplace:

Top 12 Strengths of a Sensitive Soul by Liz Longacre

In a recent article posted to by Liz Longacre, Top 12 Strengths of a Sensitive Soul, the author’s point is to highlight ways that being a highly sensitive person also actually leads one to be stronger than others in many ways. The author first talks about the difficulties that come with being a highly sensitive person and then brings us to the main idea of the article: the power of sensitivity.

According to the author, sensitivity comes with strengths, but not just any strengths. The ability to be sensitive to others empowers us with a natural set of key skills for making an impact and taking on the world’s curve balls.  The strengths listed below are highlighted in this article as possessions, or attributes, that we should not underestimate. As a believer in sensitivity and spreading awareness, I propose that we not only take advantage of these strengths as we work toward being more sensitive at work, but we also harness these strength in our daily lives.

The following notes about sensitivity strengths (from the article mentioned above) provide reason and motivation for individuals and teams to get help in transitioning to more sensitive, aware, and respectful work environments.

Considering this article with a committed interest in spreading workplace sensitivity, the following outline takes messages about sensitivity presented in the article and lets the strengths and their benefits demonstrate the potential positive effects sensitive employees can have on the overall environment and productivity of the workplace.

Which of these strengths could you work on developing?

From Top 12 Strengths of a Sensitive Soul by Liz Longacre:

1. Intuition

Use that intuition. Let it guide every step of your life.

Don’t allow fears or insecurities to block its wisdom.

2. Presence

Your sensitivity leads you to give people your full presence.

You don’t check your phone, you don’t dismiss, you don’t ignore.

3. Depth

You detract the meaningless and extract the profound. You find the life lessons and you live by them.

4. Empathy

You don’t need to experience [the pain of others] directly, you just need to witness it to make it yours.

This can be hard. But it’s also empowering.

5. Compassion

Your empathetic soul breeds compassion.

You treat others as you would like to be treated, because you know so well how it feels to experience the opposite.

You protect those who are weaker than you, because your sense of justice overrides any insecurities you may have.

6. Strength

You can handle more than most because you are used to feeling more.

Your soft exterior is an elegant touch to a fortified interior.

7. Peacefulness

Your peacefulness tells you what you can put up with and what is intolerable.

It leads you and sets your standards.

8. Commitment

You don’t give your emotions away freely. You know the consequences of that.

And so you conserve them for those [who are closest to you].

9. Health

Your body feels everything. It tells you what’s good for you and what’s not.

10. Work Ethic

Your sensitive soul has fears, but hard work isn’t one of them.

You’re an asset in any task, because you do whatever it takes to hold up your end of the bargain.

You hate to disappoint and so you constantly over deliver.

You must protect yourself and not ware yourself down but you should also take pride in your dedication.

Know the value you bring. Respect your time and all that it’s worth.

11. Grace

You’re kind. You’re conscientious. You’re respectful.

You say “please” and “thank you.” And you mean it.

You’re not rude. You don’t degrade. You don’t belittle.

You give people the respect they need to be themselves. You bring out their authenticity.

You have a humble softness that puts people at ease. That lets them breathe.

12. Love

Your sensitivity is your moral compass. It breeds love and protection in the world.