Yet the solution to these two problems isn’t simply to talk more. Additional studies show talking more doesn’t help women in group settings—it can even hurt people’s perceptions of them. This in turn makes them less likely to be listened to or to have their ideas implemented. Some of this wasn’t surprising. After all, I had found myself stacked against men since middle school. But if I was going to make my life’s calling in a male-dominated field, I realized I needed all the tools I could gather. Credentialed education became a goal for acceptance at the table.
After college, I interned for my campus ministry, and seminary was offered to us as a next step. They made it easy to apply, and even sent us on a campus visit for a long weekend. A combination of scholarships and funding allowed me to concentrate on my studies. That’s how I got there. Some of it was purely because I craved the education, but a lot of it was to prove myself (even if I didn’t realize it at the time) as worthy of a seat at the table. In many ways, seminary was the culmination of my movement toward both accepting my calling and proving my worth.
Seminary offered me directed learning in language, culture, theology, history, and the Bible. In seminary, it was my job to learn. Plus, there was the unexpected benefit of wisdom being handed out freely. Professors who’d made it their life’s mission to understand certain aspects of theology or language or ancient civilizations, shared those experiences. They poured into us, giving of their passions and experiences in ways that helped me see how it was all interconnected and vital. My faith grew and stretched and changed and strengthened. Experience flowed through the hallways in other ways also. We seminary students came from all backgrounds: domestic and international, male and female, old and young. We were a good cross-section of God’s kingdom.
Seminary also equipped me beyond what I could simply learn in a book. Classes aimed at practical application helped us gain new insights and new tools for ministry. I was surrounded by people who shared their stories of how they’d handled similar situations to the ones I was facing or would face. Practical ministry classes helped me experience what it was like to provide comfort at deathbeds before it was my responsibility. Not many people would have thought to teach me what words are cold comfort to the dying or their beloveds surrounding them.