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?!



12 thoughts on “General Synod 2015 Elections – Some Gender Statistics

  1. Thank you so much for this very helpful and detailed analysis which is badly needed. I take it you are updating it when the full results are in. It is something WATCH and IC will want to examine it closely. I hope those dioceses where we know women are not encouraged generally such as yours.and parts of London (which with all our new and encouraging Episcopal and othr senior appointments here ) May well change. I am very sorry you were not elected as we need the insights you have whatever length of experience you have as a curate. We need that as much as those with longer experience. I am devastated that Rosalind did not get back and that says a lot about the atmosphere on Winchester .Thank you.

    • Thank you Sally. Yes, I’m planning to update it later this week as the results come in, it will be interesting to see if the last 10 diocese follow the trend that seems to be emerging.

  2. There’s some interesting number crunching here! Though I suspect we may be looking at qualitative reasons at least as much as quantities ones. A couple of other thoughts for the numerical mix!
    There is a slight weighting in favour of the northern province is seat to elector ratio ( because otherwise the representation of the northern province would be very low in GS). And I’m not sure if you have considered how many of the women elected are archdeacons. Good luck with this!

  3. Thanks Rachel. This seems to be a very difficult statistical task. I think that there are other factors which possibly play an equally important part in who is elected. In Winchester Diocese the ‘turnout’ was 55% for the clergy elections. There is a perception that those of particular church traditions are more likely to vote, and more likely to vote for those of identified similar traditions. Scanning the lists of those elected there is a preponderance of Archdeacons – I know that there are some clergy who always want to vote for an Archdeacon! The results merit further study…

  4. Thank you for doing this. (I followed your link from CA.) Re numbers standing for election it would be interesting to see what the figures are just for stipendiary/non stipendiary clergy. I haven’t looked at the figures lately, but I imagine there’s still more women who are NSM. As someone who’s been both, I might have stood when I was stipendiary but there was no way I was standing as an NSM. Aside from thinking no one would vote for me because they don’t know me (and NSMs are often seen as not as good as stipendiaries), I would have had to use up a substantial chunk of annual leave to go to the synods.

  5. There is an interesting phenomenon which I think may still be in operation. That is the concern about “splitting the vote” if more than one woman* stands (* possibly replace any other so-caked “minority interest” here)
    This may mean that white middle-aged males stand more frequently than other demographics and end up therefore more likely as a type to get in.
    These stats are very useful. A really detailed analysis of voting patterns and how preferences are allocated might yield interesting results on gender and other issues.

  6. Excellent work. You need to check your stats for York diocese. 3 men and 4 women standing, 2 men and 3 women elected. Is the confusion caused by our Rowan Williams being a woman, whereas the more famous one is a man?

  7. Priscilla’s comment very interesting as it raises the possibility/probability of the default view of an ordained person stil being white male. Women who stand for GS, those who are from an (obvious??) ethnic minority group, those who self-identify as LGBTI are treated as representing special interest rather than peopelwith all sorts of different experiences to bring. Hence, women can now be bishsops = no need to vote for a woman!!! Statistics can’t prove or disprove this, but it does mean we are looking a diocesan and church cultures as well as just numbers. And statistics can indicate what it might be helpful to explore a bit more.

  8. Thanks for this very interesting piece of work. I would be interested in seeing the make up of decision making councils – which also provide people with experience to go forward into General Synod. Our Diocesan Synod (which I have just gone onto) is largely male. The Bishops Diocesan Council is too, which writes agendas and makes decisions about grants. How can women be encouraged and supported in putting themselves forward for these other decision making bodies?

  9. Thanks so much for doing this investigative work. The WATCH group on Synod will want to follow this up with you if we may? Vital for discussing representation and gender issues.

    Hilary Cotton
    Chair, WATCH

    • Hello Hilary,
      Yes, happy to follow up. I’m just processing the last 10 diocesan results now, to see if the trends continued,

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