Religion and Women's Equality

August 26, 2016

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Religion and Women's Equality Increased access to education, employment, healthcare, decision-making, and leadership has brought change to female lives within the home, family, and society. Religion, which serves as a reference point for gender norms and expectations, is often seen as institutionalizing and perpetuating patriarchy, thus frustrating many advocates for women’s rights and equality. Often overlooked, early roots of feminism included religious voices, and there are many women and men who work actively for gender equality within religious traditions. In recent years, advocates across multiple traditions have sought expanded religious leadership roles for women.

In honor of Women's Equality Day, Berkley Forum asks, what unique challenges do women face in seeking leadership roles within religious traditions where that has not historically been an option? How does the legal fight for equality help or hinder efforts to change religiously inspired norms and expectations? How do advocates for women's religious leadership balance a commitment to equality with the need to avoid imposing Western frameworks and standards on religious traditions embodied in other cultures? What role do higher education institutions have in promoting women's equality and helping their female students explore leadership opportunities, both secular and religious?

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