A Quick Question
What percentage of pastors are female?
The quick answer - Not Enough! Honestly, no one knows for sure and it would be next to impossible to actually count the number. However, survey estimates consistently find that right around 10% of American congregations have a female as their senior or sole ordained leader.
The longer answer - The Faith Communities Today 2010 national survey of a fully representative, multi-faith sample of 11,000 American congregations found that 12% of all congregations in the United States had a female as their senior or sole ordained leader. For Oldline Protestant congregations this jumps to 24%, and for Evangelical congregations it drops to 9%.
Several traditions, of course, do not ordain women (e.g., Roman Catholic) and in some traditions the leader of a congregation is a non-ordained, ‘volunteer” (e.g., Mormon). The congregations of such traditions are included among the FACT2010 congregations without a female as head or senior religious leader.
Wave 1 (1998) of the National Congregations Survey found that 10% of its overall sample had a female as head or senior religious leader; Wave 2 (2006) found 8%. The 2001 Pulpit and Pew survey of American pastors found that 12% were female, this jumping to 20% for Oldline Protestant congregations and dropping to around 2% for Evangelical. A 2009 Barna survey reports that 10% of Protestant congregations are led by females, and the 2008 Mainline Protestant Clergy Voice Survey found that 20% of Oldline Protestant congregations were led by females.
None of these congregational surveys track the gender of ordained female clergy that might serve as associate or assistant pastors, and it must also be remembered that ordained female clergy can serve in roles other than as pastoral leader. Common wisdom is that one would find slightly higher percentages of female clergy in such roles.
A more historic picture:
According to a study done in the mid 1990's by Barbara Brown Zikmund, Adair Lummis and Patricia Chang there are 16,321 female clergy in 15 Mainline and conservative Protestant denominations. This means that roughly 12 percent of clergy in those denominations are female.
The distribution is not equal across denominations however. The more theologically liberal groups such as the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ lead in the percent of their clergy who are female with 30 and 25 percent respectively.
Most theologically conservative groups in the list - the Southern Baptist Convention, the Free Methodist Church and the Assemblies of God all have less that 10 percent of their pastors being female.
The table below gives the total clergy and percent of female pastors as of 1994.
||Total Clergy in 1994
||% Female Clergy
|American Baptist Churches
|Assemblies of God
(Disciples of Christ)
|Church of God
|Church of the Brethren
|Church of the Nazarene
|Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
|Free Methodist Church
|Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
|Southern Baptist Convention
|United Church of Christ
|United Methodist Church
If you are interested in reading more of the research findings from this study, visit the section of our website about this study.
Visit the section of our site devoted to the topic of
women and religion if you want to know more.
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