General Synod 2015 – Further Statistics

All the diocesan results are now in, so it’s possible to see if the trends that seemed to be emerging are there all the way through.

Last week, as the synod results started to come in, I posted a blog post to start to analyse the results, and in particular to see if there were any emerging trends relating to gender / election results.

Gender RatiosNow that all the results are in, if you take a very broad level view, it would seem that everything is straightforward. Comparing the gender split of total clergy (2012), against the gender split of the House of Clergy elected to General Synod, 2015; overall, the gender balance is almost identical – a result I found surprising.


However, this overall matched ratios, disguises some interesting dynamics in the processes to get to this result.

There are interesting features in the data for both the candidates standing for election, and those that are elected.

Candidates for Election

  1. As already posted online by others, there were significantly more males standing for election than females. In this document I’ve analysed the data by diocese, against 2012 ministry statistics. These demonstrate that the split is more marked in the Province of Canterbury, with only 2.7% of female clergy standing for election, vs 4% of males.
    M% Clergy that stood for election F% Clergy that stood for election Total% Clergy that stood for election
    Province of Canterbury 4.0% 2.7% 3.5%
    Province of York 3.8% 3.2% 3.6%
    CHURCH of England 3.9% 2.8% 3.6%

There was a wide variety in the number of females standing for election within each diocese – as shown on this map (whereas a more similar level of male engagement across the dioceses)

GS Election Candidates by Gender and Diocese

Candidates Elected

  1. Analysis of the percentage of diocesan clergy that are female against the percentage of female elected General Synod representatives shows an unexpected trend, that the dioceses with most females amongst the general clergy population elected a lower proportion of females to their General Synod cohort.
  2. Of all candidates standing, 57% of female candidates were elected overall, vs 42% of men, so females that did stand were elected much more frequently than men.
  3. When dioceses are ranked by the number of female candidates standing, those dioceses with fewer female candidates standing, were more likely to elect females to General Synod than those dioceses where more women stood. 4+ female candidates seems to be the tipping point, at which males are more likely to be selected than females, of those standing.

Gender Selection vs Female Clergy in Diocese

I’ve attached my full pdf report illustrating this, and the data if you want to take a look.

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General Synod 2015 Elections – Some Gender Statistics

So what’s going on with gender and the General Synod Elections for House of Clergy this year?

Inspired by Thinking Anglicans list of General Synod results, Ian Paul’s analysis of the gender of candidates standing for elections, and the Church Times article on the gender balance of those standing, I thought I would also look at the numbers.

(I have to admit, up front, that I was one of the unsuccessful clergy candidates in the Winchester diocese; but also to being very cross today, that although there were 4 female candidates in Winchester, there were none elected. I wasn’t expecting to be elected, as a second-year curate- but was very surprised that none of the women were elected. And I do want to say, I think we do have some great guys that have been elected from this diocese.)

I decided to compare the numbers of clergy standing against the latest set of ministry statistics that I have access to – the C of E Ministry Statistics, 2012. (So representation numbers not entirely accurate, as there may have been slight changes in numbers / gender since these ministry stats were published.)

This is my data so far (end of 14th Oct, 15): 151015 General Synod 2015 Statistics

My first analysis is of the candidates for election, looking at the number of candidates standing for each diocese, and comparing these numbers (by gender) against the number of potential candidates, using the figures of those in stipendiary & self-supporting clergy from the 2012 ministry statistics by diocese.

As others have reported, this shows that there were more men than women standing, however, putting it in these percentages, there were 13 dioceses where a higher percentage of eligible women stood for election than men

Numbers standing for GS election (2015) as percentage of eligible candidates (2012 data) Comparison of representation in elections
Province M F Total
Canterbury 4.0% 2.7% 3.5% Males higher percentage
York 3.8% 3.2% 3.6% Males higher percentage
Total Church of England 3.9% 2.8% 3.6% Males higher percentage

This shows that the skew was much stronger in the province of Canterbury, with almost 50% more men standing for election than women (as a percentage of eligible candidates to stand). This comes back to the questions raised by Ian Paul – why are less women standing for election. Although, there is a reasonable difference between the percentage of women in the south and women in the north going forward – what is it about the northern dioceses that makes women more likely to put themselves forward for election? Is there a different profile of women in the north – in terms of age? family? experience? length of time in ministry? Or is there something different in the dioceses? Are there more women in senior leadership positions in the province of York? (I don’t know the answer to this one)


As the results have been coming in this week, I have then plotted these in the same way. (At the time of writing this, there are 10 dioceses for whom I do not have results information)

This time I have compared the percentage of elected members of the house of clergy (by gender), with the percentage numbers of clergy overall in each diocese (by gender).

Clergy (stip & self-supp) from 2012 Ministry Figures Clergy Figures – Elected to General Synod 2015 Comparing % of elected candidates, with % eligible candidates by gender
Province M F M F Total M% F%
Canterbury 68% 32% 73 26 99 74% 26% Male representation GS higher than male proportion clergy
York 67% 33% 25 17 42 60% 40% Female representation GS higher than Female proportion clergy
Total Church of England 68% 32% 98 43 141 70% 30% Male representation GS higher than male proportion clergy

This data shows that in the province of York, overall there is a higher percentage of females in the house of clergy on General Synod (40%), than there are in the overall clergy population (33%). However, in the Province of Canterbury, this picture is reversed.

Overall, there were 11 dioceses (with results reported so far), where female representation on General Synod is higher than amongst clergy generally, compared to 20 dioceses where male representation is higher. There is one diocese – Chester – where the representation is equal.

The third analysis I did, was to look at the candidates in a diocese, against the election results, and to see if you were more likely to be elected in a diocese if you were male or female. This was interesting, as overall, there was a significantly higher chance of being elected if you were a female that stood for election (indicating that the issue is potentially related more to encouraging females to stand in the first place.) However, there were several dioceses where this was not the case (including my own!)

Numbers elected as percentage of those standing Which gender selected most frequently from those candidates that stood
Province M F Total
Canterbury 32% 36% 33% Females selected more frequently
York 34% 57% 40% Females selected more frequently
Total Church of England 32% 42% 35% Females selected more frequently

 Split by diocese:

Females selected more frequently 21
Males selected more frequently 11
Equal selection 2


I delved into this further, to see if there is any correlation between the number of female candidates standing and the numbers elected. This is where it gets really interesting – with the dioceses that have declared results so far, of the 13 dioceses where there was just one woman standing for election, in 9 of these cases, she was elected, and in only one instance  so far, was she unsuccessful (with 3 undeclared yet)

2015 Synod Results Ordered by # Female Candidates Standing

In the dioceses where 4 or more women stood for election (10 dioceses), of results declared so far, in 6 dioceses men were selected more frequently than women, but in only 2 of these dioceses were women selected more than men (Lichfield and Manchester).

There are various possible interpretations – and I’m sure you will be able to think of more.

I wonder if, where there were very few women standing, those voting took gender into account more explicitly / were perhaps keener to ensure that there was a woman / women elected.

Perhaps, in the dioceses where more women stood, maybe gender was less of an issue in people’s minds, as they were voting…. perhaps the wider spread of candidates encouraged people to look at more than gender? I think that’s what we want to get to – where we’re looking at people – regardless of gender, sexuality, ….

In which case, in the dioceses where more women stood for election, is it that the women don’t have as much experience as the men? (In my case that is a very valid point, as a second year curate, I have considerably less ministerial experience than those that were elected – and hence my lack of surprise at my non-election!)

I don’t know the details of all the candidates across these dioceses, and you would need to look further – is it that the female candidates (or female clergy in general?) are not as visible in dioceses? are perhaps not so well represented on diocesan synods? in diocesan committees? meetings? in senior roles in dioceses? I’m sure there are others that have looked into these sort of questions.

If there really is a correlation, and 4 or more women standing means women are less likely to have been elected than men, then I feel really frustrated – as, part of my reason for standing was to try and increase the likelihood of there being a female representative of this diocese in the house of clergy… my standing took the number of female candidates in this diocese to 4… which potentially decreased the likelihood of the female candidates in this diocese being elected?!



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