I loved seeing this campaign on Facebook, although as always don’t read below the line!
So, I’m really excited to see a couple of initiatives from the church being launched today:
Project 3:28 Database
For years I’ve been asked to speak, or recommend other speakers for events, and we started off a simple Excel spreadsheet (not specifically for women). In the meantime Gathering of Women Leaders was continuing it’s excellent work (next one 17th March, near Monument station in London), including seeking to understand the barriers to women in leadership, which includes women as experts and speakers.
I was involved in early conversations about the database, but when Project 3:28 took off with it’s ‘simple’ challenge to gender imbalance within the church, notably counting and reporting on the gender imbalance at Christian conferences and events (as work out by volunteers working their way through programmes). The group’s impact has already been felt, but one of the complaints was that it was ‘difficult’ to find women speakers with the right expertise … so this database has been in the works for the last couple of years. I’ve been one fo the testers on the project, and really excited to see it finally come into being today at https://speaker328.info/:
Beautifully designed by David Bunce, the database is very simple to use, whether you are searching for a speaker (yes, you will need to set up a simple log-in), or whether you are putting forward information about yourself as a speaker. Searching for a speaker produces a random generation of names (so different names will come up each time), which can then be filtered by keyword, subject, or conference/media experience:
Once you’ve found someone who looks interesting/in your range of topics click on ‘View Profile’ at the bottom of the box, and get something like mine (in which I specify the kind of topics I can speak on, the kind of media/conference experience I have, my social media connections, a bio-summary that can be used in programmes, and then links to external links):
We suggested to users that they link to e.g. a YouTube video. As someone who has helped arrange conferences, we typically go and look online at speakers that we don’t really know to see the kind of style, and whether it’s a good fit for the type of event that we’re running!
I’m really looking forward to seeing this make a difference. It’s very easy to become a ‘name on the conference circuit’, and this should be great for introducing some new names. We had conversations about whether this should just be for women, but that’s where there’s an identified need within church culture, where the funding and volunteer hours have come from. There is an expectation that the system that has been built could be white-labelled for other similar databases in future.
Minding The Gap 2018
Gathering of Women Leaders emerged partly in conjunction with the Sophia Network, and so this report, based on over 1,000 responses earlier this year looks at the following: “Women make up around 65% of the UK Church. But who are these women? What are the unique issues they face in church spaces? Where are they finding space to flourish, and how is the relationship between men and women in Church? In our work at the Sophia Network, we often hear stories of when things aren’t quite going right – where women’s experiences of Church are found wanting, where their gifts and talents are not recognised. But what is the true picture?”
The Minding The Gap 2018 report gives some insights into this, using qualitative and quantitative research:
I’m sure there’s been other excellent reports and initiatives, meantime, I’m going to finish with shoutouts to YBCN, UK Breast Cancer Support Group, Beyond Chocolate, and #WIASN – all most definitely not church initiatives, but lifelines in various ways this – and past – years.
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.