bishop (chess piece)

Yesterday, General Synod put the last piece in place to enable women to be appointed as bishops in the Church of England. The usual suspects flocked to online forums to vent their vitriol about this archaic and backwards organization finally “joining the 20th century”.

The most interesting, and most ignored, comment was Justin Welby’s prediction that within 10 years half of Church of England bishops could be women.

After almost 100 years of eligibility, only 20% of MPs and 28% of Cabinet ministers are women.

In the business world, only 30% of company directors are women; the figure for FTSE 100 board members reached 20% for the first time in 2014.

In science, only 5% of the Fellows of the Royal Society are women (10% of new Fellows).

Most surprisingly (and most depressingly), the proportion of women in information technology – that most modern and, originally, most egalitarian of professions – has actually fallen from 25% (2001) to 16% (2013) and is, according to a recent BCS publication “likely to worsen further – unless there are some significant and meaningful interventions”. An even greater irony is that the person most widely recognized as the first programmer was a woman (Ada Lovelace) and the first generation of programmers, in the modern sense, were also predominantly women.

So perhaps the thought for today should be not so much

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)


The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong …” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

Here begineth the lesson …

Further reading
For more about the role of women in early computing, you could do worse than dip into Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt Beyer (2009). Read review
 References and acknowledgements:
Photo credit: MichaelMaggs (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
Company directors:
Proportion of women on FTSE 100 boards tops 20% (Financial Times, January 2014)
Royal Society Fellowships
Women in IT Scorecard (BCS,2008)
Women in IT Scorecard (BCS,2014)