By Rev. Leigh Goodrich and Alexa Eisenbarth
This is part two of our General Agency Desk Audit. The first portion can be found
In the spring of 2017, a General Agency Desk Audit was requested. General Agency Desk Audits request General
Agencies to report the gender and racial/ethnic makeup of their employees and board members. They also
report the leadership roles among employees and board members. In this second part of our review, we will
be looking at the employment trends in the general agencies, as well as the gender and racial/ethnic composition
of board membership and leadership.
Few Changes for Racial/Ethnic Women Employed in the General Agency Workforce
In 2007, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women reported that racial/ethnic women make up 27% of the workforce in United Methodist agencies, using data collected in the spring of 2006 . Over ten years later, racial/ethnic women now make up 24% of the workforce. The data for this report comes from data reported to GCSRW by our general agencies in the spring of 2017 .
Racial/Ethnic Women Employment Numbers remain low
Since 2006, the number of employees in the general agencies has declined from 1,942 to 1,064 total employees, or almost half. As a result the number of racial/ethnic women working in the general agencies has decreased from 516 to 256, with percentages declining from 27% in 2006 to 24% in 2017. While there have been some shifts in the representation of racial/ethnic women in the agencies, those shifts are relatively minimal.
The greatest percentage of racial/ethnic women are employed in administrative/clerical positions (40%), an increase of 4 points from 2006. The second largest subgroup is the number of racial ethnic women working in service maintenance positions, which has increased from 29% in 2006 to 32% in 2017. When we combine the number of racial/ethnic women working in administrative/clerical and service/maintenance positions in 2017, they make up 38% of the total employees working in those job categories. When we look at all racial/ethnic women employed by the general agencies in 2017, 49% work in jobs that are administrative/clerical and service/maintenance.
Attorneys and accountants make up the third largest subgroup, with 30% in 2017, compared to 19%, occupying those positions in 2006. However, the raw numbers show that we currently employ 14 professionals in 2017 compared to 60 in 2006.
Racial ethnic women have seen a small bump in representation at the executive level, from 19% to 21%. Again, the raw numbers tell a far different story: in 2017, 19 racial/ethnic women served at the executive level, while 28 served at the executive level in 2006. When we compare the number of racial ethnic women serving at the executive level, 19, to the total employed at all levels by all agencies, 256, 7% hold executive positions, compared to 5% in 2006.
Table 1: Racial Ethnic Women Employed by General Agency Level
GBCS Church and Society
GBHEM Higher Education and Ministry
GBGM Global Ministries
Direct Report to GS
Percentage of Executives
Total Support Staff
Percentage of Support Staff
Total Agency Staff
Percentage of Staff
GCAH Archives and History
GCORR Religion and Race
GCUMM UM Men
GCSRW Status and Role of Women
UMPH Publishing House
UMW UM Women
CT Connectional Table
Total for All Agencies
Percentages for All Agencies
What Does It All Mean?
A decade has come and gone since the 2006 and 2017 studies were published. How can we understand the limited movement in the employment of racial/ethnic women?
The original study suggested intersectionality theory as a possible explanation. Intersectionality theory is a sociological position first proposed by sociologist Beatrice Potter Webbin 1913, and later coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw. The theory claims that class, race, sexual orientation, disabilityand gender do not exist separately from each other, but are complexly interwoven in multiple layers of disadvantage. The combination of these layers, in this case, gender and race, result in racial/ethnic women facing greater challenges in employment than men or white women.
As pointed out in our 2007 article, this may be the case with the employment of racial/ethnic women in The United Methodist General Agencies, just as it is in the greater society. These results prompt us to ask questions about the church and world. Is intersectionality theory a contributor to the gender and racial/ethnic makeup of our general agencies? Are there more factors contributing to our findings? The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women encourages the councils, boards and agencies as they continue their efforts to hire a more diverse workforce.
Agency Board Membership and Leadership Results
The General Agency Desk Audit 2017 also included findings regarding the percentages of men and women in board membership in United Methodist General Agencies. According to The Book of Discipline, board memberships are selected by various methods depending on each general agency. Most general agency boards are named through jurisdictional nominations, Council of Bishops nominations, Central Conference nominations, and nominations from each general agency. The Book of Discipline specifies categories of individuals from which at least one and not more than five persons should be selected, including “(1) clergy (including at least one women), (2) laywomen, (3) laymen. ”
Women in General Agency Board Membership and Leadership
Overall, there were improvements for women in both board leadership and membership in 2017. Women fill half of agency board leadership positions, an improvement from 2006 which reported 40% of women in agency board leadership positions. In the past eleven years, agency board leadership has achieved equal representation of men and women.  Moreover, considering the total membership of agency boards, women hold 49% of positions, while men hold 51%, comparing favorably to 2006 when women held 43.3% of positions, and men held 56.7%.
Four boards reported twice as many men as women members
In four agencies, men at least double the number of women in their board membership: United Methodist Men, Connectional Table, General Commission on Archives and History, and The United Methodist Publishing House. It is appropriate that United Methodist Men would be represented almost entirely by men, reporting two women (10%) on their board, just as the board membership of United Methodist Women is completely represented by women.
In the 2006 desk audit, a concern was that women were not equitably represented on the boards of agencies “charged with communicating with the world about The United Methodist Church,” namely United Methodist Communications (UMCOM) with 35% women, and United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH) with 26% women . Eleven years later, UMCOM, whose purpose is to “meet the communication, public relations, and marketing needs of the entire church, reflecting cultural and racial diversity, ” now reports 53% women on their board membership. UMPH, whose objective is “the advancement of the cause of Christianity throughout the world… ” reports and increase to 33% women. Related to these agencies is the General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH). GCAH is tasked to “gather, preserve, and hold title to library and archival materials, and…disseminate interpretive materials on the history of The United Methodist Church and its antecedents,” and reports that their board membership consists of two-thirds men.  Similarly, the Connectional Table, purposed with the “discernment and articulation of the vision for the church and the stewardship of the mission, ministries, and resources of The United Methodist Church,”  reports twice as many men as women board members.
While four agency boards report twice as many men as women, only two report the inverse proportions; United Methodist Women (UMW), and the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW). UMW’s board membership is 100% women, and GCSRW reports 68% women.
Agency Board Leadership
As we turn our attention to the leadership positions (officers, chairs of committees and task forces) within the agency boards, we celebrate that the yoke of board leadership is equally borne by men and women overall! 50% of board leaders are women, and 50% are men. 6 out of 13 agencies report a majority of women in board leadership positions, and 2 others, United Methodist Publishing House and General Board of Discipleship, have equal representation of men and women in board leadership positions. Five agencies report having a majority of men in leadership positions.
Lay and clergy
Considering both agency board membership and leadership positions, laywomen outnumber clergywomen in these roles. Clergywomen, in fact, are represented least in both membership and leadership of agency boards. This is somewhat representative of The United Methodist Church, as clergywomen, at 27%, are the smallest group among clergymen, laymen, and laywomen.
Laywomen outnumber laymen in both board membership and board leadership reports as well. Laywomen are only outnumbered by clergymen in total board membership, yet are the best represented population on board leadership. United Methodist laywomen, who comprise 58% of United Methodist membership, are embracing their “commitment to the full and equal responsibility and participation in the total life and the mission of the church, sharing fully in the power and in the policy-making at all levels of the Church’s life.” 
% of Women
General Council on Finance and Administration
General Board of Church and Society
General Board of Discipleship
General Board of Higher Education and Ministry
General Board of Global Ministries
General Commission on Archives and History
General Commission on Religion and Race
General Commission on the Status and Role of Women
General Commission on United Methodist Men
United Methodist Communications
United Methodist Publishing House
United Methodist Women
Racial/Ethnic Women Constitute 23% of Agency Board Membership and Leadership
Racial/ethnic women comprise 23% of both the voting membership and leadership of the general agencies . This figure does not include international women who are agency board members. This statistic compares favorably to a similar study performed in 2006 which reported racial/ethnic women, as well as international women, making up 21% of the voting membership on boards of general agencies .
United Methodist Women, who were not represented in the 2006 study, reported 55% of their board (12 members) is comprised of racial/ethnic women in 2017. This is the largest percentage of racial/ethnic women on a board. However, the General Board of Church and Society has the second largest percentage of racial/ethnic women, 39%, with the largest total number of 15. This reflects a significant increase from 2006, when Church and Society’s board had 15% racial/ethnic women on a much larger board.
Among the general boards, the General Board of Discipleship was a close second, reporting 36% of their board, or 9 members, being racial/ethnic women.
The two commissions mandated to work towards greater inclusivity and diversity in the church, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women and the General Commission on Religion and Race, reported 37% (7) and 24% (5), respectively, racial/ethnic female members.
Impressive gains were also reported by the General Council on Finance and Administration. In 2006, only 11% of their 53 member board was a racial/ethnic woman. In 2017, that percentage increased significantly to 32% on a board that had shrunk to 22 voting members.
The four United Methodist program boards (General Board of Church and Society, General Board of Discipleship, General Board of Higher Education, and General Board of Global Ministry) reported a total of 19% of the racial/ethnic women serving as members of the boards and agencies, down from 43% in 2006.
It is helpful to compare these figures to the United States as a whole. According to the US Census Bureau, all racial ethnic persons make up 38.7% of the US population in 2017 , up 7.8 points from the figures recorded in 2006. Estimates of the intersection of gender and ethnicity by the Bureau are similar, reporting 38.3 racial ethnic women in the US population in 2015, and an anticipated 56.2% by 2060.  The growth in racial ethnic persons, particularly women, in the US is an indicator of the church’s future constituency.
The general boards and agencies report that racial ethnic women also make up 23% of the leadership on their boards. Both United Methodist Women and the General Board of Church and Society report that 50% of the leadership on their boards is comprised of racial/ethnic women. This represents a large increase from 2006 for Church and Society, who previously reported 25% of their leadership being racial/ethnic women in 2006. The General Board of Discipleship was a close second with 43% of board leadership identified as racial/ethnic women, up 10 points from 2006.
The largest gains made over the past decade belong to the General Council on Finance and Administration. In 2017, 30% of their board leaders were racial/ethnic women, compared with none in 2006.
What is the recommended standard?
The 2016 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church recommends that membership at each of the general agencies “seeks to be inclusive based on gender, racial and ethnic persons, age, persons with disabilities, and size of church. In order to ensure adequate representation of racial and ethnic persons (Asian American, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders), it is recommended that a jurisdiction’s membership on each general agency be at least 30 percent racial and ethnic persons.”  While this article specifically pertains to racial/ethnic women, this 30 percent recommendation is a good starting place.
The church can attain this level of diversity by electing an inclusive slate of people from which general agency members are chosen. The jurisdictional nominating committee then nominates the persons to serve on each of the general agencies from the names they are given from the annual conferences.
% of R/E Women
General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA)
Connectional Table (CT)
General Board of Church and Society (GBCS)
General Board of Discipleship (GBOD)
General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM)
General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM)
General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH)
General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR)
General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW)
General Commission on United Methodist Men (GCUMM)
United Methodist Communications (UMCOM)
United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH)
United Methodist Women (UMW)
The inclusion of many voices, perspectives and experiences is one of the many strengths of The United Methodist Church. It is a gift to us as a denomination to draw the circle of leaders wide as we consider hiring, electing and appointing more racial/ethnic women and men to the boards of our agencies.
 The Flyer, April-June 2007, Volume 38, Number 2
 Agencies included in 2017 Desk Audit: GCFA, GBCS, GBOD, GBGM, GBHEM, GCAH, GCORR, UMM, GCSRW, UMPH, UMW, Connectional Table, UMCOM. In our 2006 study, UMW was not included. However, GCCUIC (General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns) was included.
 Book of Discipline, ¶701.1.b
 In our 2006 study, UMW was not included. However, GCCUIC (General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns) was included.
 Book of Discipline ¶1805
 Book of Discipline ¶1613
 Book of Discipline ¶1703
 Book of Discipline ¶904
 Book of Discipline ¶2201
 Agencies included in 2017 Desk Audit: GBOD, GBHEM, UMM, UMW, GCAH, Connectional Table, GBGM, GBCS, GCFA, GCORR, UMPH, UMCOM, and GCSRW. In our 2006 study, UMW was not included. However, GCCUIC (General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns) was included.
 The Flyer, July-September 2007, Vol.38, Number 3.
 U.S. Census Bureau, “ Table 10. Projections of the Population by Sex, Hispanic Origin, and Race for the United States: 2015 to 2060,” Population Projections(2014)
 The 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline, ¶ 705.3d.