I recently participated in a TribTalk about Ordain Women. Pretty much the first words out of Neylan McBaine’s mouth were something along the lines of “ordaining women won’t end sexism.”
That surprised me and got me thinking–I hadn’t framed the issue in those terms before. But she’s right.
Think about this: in your experience, what percentage of your Gospel Doctrine teachers have been female? I’m sure answers to that question will vary based on the fact that all of us are dealing with really small sample sizes and anecdotal evidence, but I think for most people, it is going to be in the neighborhood of 20-30%.
Now stop and think about that for a moment. There are no institutional barriers to women being called as Gospel Doctrine teachers. Rather, wards tend to have more active women than men, which means that you might expect more women to be called than men. And there are many callings that only men can hold, which should further increase the likelihood that a woman is the teacher. I called upon the talents of Ziff, bloggernacle number cruncher extraordinaire, who did some fancy math stuff for me that I don’t entirely understand. But Ziff reports that the odds of a female Sunday School teacher are going to depend on the number of adults in the ward, the percentage of active adults who are female, and the number of wards in the stake (since so many stake callings are male-only). But the end result is that the odds of having a female Gospel Doctrine teacher should be between 64% and 100%, with an average of 85% of GD teachers being female. Is that your experience? It isn’t mine, or that of anyone else that I have asked.
Why are so many Gospel Doctrine teachers men, when it appears that they should, in a random universe, be almost all women? There are several potential reasons, many of which stem from what guides the choice of a Sunday School President to choose a particular teacher. It may be that some of them have a hard time imagining a woman in that position because they aren’t used to hearing women teach men. It may be that they observe men teaching in EQ/HP/YM/HT and so are more familiar with those men as potential teachers. It may be that they associate with the men of the ward more in informal settings and therefore have a longer list of “spiritual and with interesting insights to share” men than they do of women. It may be that they prefer the (stereotypical) teaching styles of men to women. It may be that men are more likely to be RMs and therefore more mature in the gospel. It may be that they see the calling as a way to develop inadequate teachers into good teachers and so they pick people who are (stereotypically) less likely to be professional teachers. It may be that most of the potential pool of female teachers are in Primary, so the issue is more in the perceptions of who should teach Primary than of who should teach Sunday School. There may be other reasons. But no other reason changes the basics of the situation, which are: in a situation with no institutional barriers to female participation (with, instead, several indicators that make it far more likely than average), female teachers are quite rare.
So now extrapolate to the ordination of women. Let’s say that Ordain Women wave their hypothetical magic wand and all of a sudden, anyone can be in any calling with no gender barriers. I suspect that, even in ten or fifteen years, 90% of bishops and stake presidents would still be male. After all, if we aren’t anywhere near the statistically probable numbers of Sunday School teachers, given that teaching is a stereotypically female endeavor, why would we do any better with callings that had a leadership component to them?
 Here’s Ziff’s explanation: “This analysis uses the calling list from MLS at http://tech.lds.org/wiki/Callings to count male-only and female-only callings. Making some assumptions about which callings are typically filled and left vacant (e.g., Sunday School presidency second counselors are rare), there are 31 male-only and 25 female-only callings at the ward level. There are 29 male-only and 12 female-only stake callings (of which a typical ward would contribute 4 men and 2 women). The percentage of available women and men after all gender-specific callings are filled was calculated by taking a range of values for active ward members (125-200), for percentage of active members that are adults (50-70), and for percentage of active adults that are male (40-50), and subtracting the number of gender-specific callings from the resulting number of active men and women. Note that this analysis assumes a maximum of one calling per person.”