by H G Scott
Four research-based solutions beyond Mike Pence’s ‘Billy Graham Rule.’
……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.
…In following the Billy Graham Rule, they didn’t intend to exclude women or sexualize them. Instead, they wanted to ensure their actions were always above board.
They also wanted to inoculate themselves against false sexual harassment allegations.
…So how do we reconcile the sometimes-conflicting perspectives of men and women?
…For Christian men and women looking to take the lead, here are four foundational ways to forge healthy male-female alliances in the workplace:
…2. Start (or continue) the big-picture conversation about what it means to be men and women serving together in the context of a hypersexualized culture.
Evaluate what your church or organization believes about men and women and the relationship between the two.
What do you say you believe? What do your actual policies and procedures say about what you believe? Are there men and women distributed across all levels of leadership? Why or why not? Are men and women encouraged to work together in collaborative teams? Is that working? Why or why not?
As Lauren Winner writes, “Let’s take note of concrete situations [and] ask fellow workers, ‘What happens in a Christian community when these issues come up?’ Then we can start to develop the language we clearly need to articulate how manners might look in a new social setting of sexual equality, where we are surrounded and bombarded by greedy, indulgent … ideas about sex.”
…3. Establish clear, wise boundaries in advance.
Clear boundaries—rather than restrictions that exclude female coworkers—provide women with safety. Instead of burdening a man with the task of telling a co-worker he can’t meet with her, organizations can set specific policies to guide godly behavior regarding travel and how to partner on projects.
Setting these policies benefits both men and women. Men don’t feel awkward, and women don’t feel demeaned and sexualized.
As Gina Dalfonzo writes, the argument is not that “there shouldn’t be boundaries, but that those boundaries should be drawn in a way that respects women as working professionals trying to do their jobs.”
…As a working Christian woman, I understand where men are coming from. I respect their reasons for following the Billy Graham Rule.
And yet, this rule—if used as the only guiding principle—doesn’t give us the answer to today’s hypersexualized climate. Truncating the working relationship between men and women is not the solution to the current sexual misconduct scandal.
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