A Series on Women in Leadership, Part 1: Mātauranga and Flourishing

The following is the first in a series of articles from The Reverend Blythe Cody, sharing her thoughts on Women in Leadership in the Anglican Church.

A Mātauranga grounded approach to women’s leadership might change our priorities and help our outcomes.

Many dedicated people have been working for years to advocate for women leaders in the Anglican Church, and because of their tireless work there’s a growing consensus that our statistics need to change. Our challenge now is to turn this awareness into the implementation of actions that will result in better outcomes. A Mātauranga grounded approach could provide a framework for flourishing whose results would speak for themselves.

It’s easy to get caught up in numerical goals: aiming to place the same number of women in leadership positions as men. This is a worthy aspiration, and one that changes in policy could certainly play a role in achieving. However, making this our primary goal might not have the intended effect.

A recent study found that when organisations increased the number of women on their boards it simply shifted the power ratio so that a smaller number of men were holding relatively greater power. Women were less empowered in these scenarios than they had been before.

If our focus remains solely on numbers, we risk neglecting the formation of Te Oranga Ake – flourishing for all.

Khylee Quince (Dean of AUT Law School) gave a powerful keynote address on mana wāhine and feminism. She posed some questions that could help the Church turn their focus to empowering, equipping and improving the outcomes for women leaders:

How can we, as part of a post-colonial or decolonization strategy, elevate the status of wāhine Māori?

How can we ensure their well-being aligns with the principles of Te Tiriti?

And crucially, how can we leverage their journey towards mana motuhake and tino rangatiratanga, the self-determination of wāhine Māori?

It may be that we discover that when we grapple with these questions we get beyond goals of gender quotas and open ourselves to possibilities we have yet to imagine.

Perhaps our churches could become spaces where diverse familial structures and obligations are recognized, where colonial gender hierarchies are denounced, and where collective well-being takes precedence over individualism.

At the heart of mana wāhine lies a rich heritage and wisdom, offering hope for the future of women in leadership within our church communities.