Women in the Church

Prof. Dr. Gisela Muschiol, President of the Hildegardis Association

Convinced that „Education gives wings!", the founding mothers of the Hildegardis Association, in 1907, established an organisation aiming to Support Catholic women with academic aspirations: Their approach was hands-on and tailor-made: the beneficiarias received such help as interest-free loans, free lunch, or book donations.

Today, more than a century after its inception, the Hildegardis Association has become a network that crosses generations and disciplines: In the course of its history, the organisation has continuously adjusted its promotion portfolio to current requirements - from the construction of dorms and support for female WW2 expellees to family grants for young mothers. For almost a decade, the Hildegardis Assocation has also organised a number of highly successful mentoring schemes: the most recent of these is a mentoring program developed to increase the share of women in executive positions within the Catholic church. We are delighted that the German Bishops' Conference (DBK) has recommended this program to the German (arch-)dioceses. It will serve as a means to implement the goals stipulated in the DBK declaration "The Cooperation between Women and Men in the Service and the Life of the Church" that was issued at the Spring 2013 Plenary Assembly.

It is encouraging that 14 German (arch-)dioceses have decided to sign up for the program: A total of 40 tandems will take part in two one-year mentoring cycles until 2018, with the first group starting in June 2016 and the second in September 2016.

We are very much looking forward to the next two project years:  they will give us the opportunity to boost a personnel and organizational development that not only targets men but women as well, advertise the Church as employer and promote young talent. The participants will discuss and experience the importance of role models and develop their strengths - and that is particularly important to us: All our programs focus on individual strengths and thus aim to effectively develop individual potential.“

Bishop Dr. Franz-Josef Bode

„With its mentoring program, the Hildegardis Association wants to contribute to the implementation of the Trier Declaration of the German Bishops.

Mentoring is a tried and tested method to counsel and support women on their way to a leading positions. Experience shows that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a larger number of qualified applicants for executive jobs. This is where the mentoring program of the Catholic Hildegardis Association, an experienced provider of such schemes which has received several awards for its work, comes in."

Andrea Qualbrink, Process Consultant

The German (arch-)dioceses want more women in executive positions. The Code of Canon Law allows women to take over a multitude of these: in ordinariates general vicariates, in the field of education and research (academies, Schools, University faculties/ chairs, family education centres etc. ), in pastoral care as well as in Catholic charities, media and associations.

As yet, however, women are still under-represented in leading positions in almost all these Areas - that is the clear result of the 2013 DBK survey "Women in Executive Positions in the General Vicariates/Ordinariates of the German (Arch-)Dioceses", the 2014 Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) study "Women in Executive Positions in the ZdK, the Diocesan Councils and in the member organizations of the Consortium of Catholic Organizations in Germany" as well as in the evaluations of the Structural Assessment of the Funding Bodies of the German Caritas Association (DCV) (complemented by the 2013 study "Women in Executive Positions of Caritas Member Associations").

These surveys present a conclusive status quo analysis of the numerical participation of women in the upper echelons of the German Catholic Church. With respect to the causes of the under-representation of women in this important Arena and actions recommended to change it, there are various socio-scientific studies, the above-mentioned evaluation of the German Caritas Association and few additional church-related surveys.

To "increase the share of women in executive positions further" both bottom-up and top-down measures will be necessary. Mentoring is a personnel development tool that has proved to be particularly effective in this context. On the basis of its long-term experience with this method, the Hildegardis Association has developed the program "Church in Mentoring - Women on their Way Up".

Excerpt from the February 2013 Declaration "The Cooperation between Women and Men in the Service and the Life of the Church"

"Subsequent to the study day we commit ourselves to promote women even more when exercising the responsibilities for church life which is a task for all Christians."

"The Church cannot afford to do without the competences and charisma of women."

"At up to 19 per cent, the present share of women in managerial tasks in ordinariates and vicariates general points in the right direction but is still not sufficient. We will therefore intensify our search for possibilities to further increase the proportion of women in management positions. In five years we will again examine the developments in this area."

The full text of the Declaration can be found on the homepage of the German Bishops' Conference.