Gender, gender discourse, gender bias, Christian men and women, women s roles, women in authority


This paper is an inquiry into the discourse styles of men and women who work together in a conservative Protestant Christian business. Many conservative Protestant Christian churches teach that the Bible forbids women from holding positions of authority over men. Yet in the communications department of this particular business, women fill the top three management positions, supervising a mixed-gender staff of 15. Research has shown that men and women subconsciously use language markers that indicate personal attitudes toward the same and the opposite genders. This research project draws on that information while it analyzes the oral and electronic discourse of the communications staff. The purpose of this study is to observe whether or not the traditional teachings of conservative Protestant Christian churches has influenced the attitudes of these men and women with regard to women in positions of authority over men in a Christian business. Two staff meetings and a lunchroom conversation were audio taped and transcribed to note oral discourse patterns. One hundred and eleven emails were examined to mark patterns of written discourse. This data was then evaluated against published research in the area of gendered discourse markers. The results indicate that two of the three women in leadership positions over men were comfortable with their positions of authority, but the third woman's discourse patterns showed signs of insecurity. Furthermore, the men in the department did not indicate signs that they seek to exercise power over women, nor did they show signs of difficulty in submitting to the authority of the women. The women staff members, however, showed definite indications of being insecure in a mixed group, and of being meekly subordinate to anyone in authority over them. These results, while helpful, are not definitive in that they do not account for the possibility of other influencing factors, such as personality types, job roles and expectations, age differences, or church teachings on meekness and submission to authority. However, the results of this research indicate that some conservative Christian men are ready for and able to embrace the concept of having women in positions of authority over them, even in a Christian environment, and a few conservative, Christian women are ready to step into those positions. Also from this research it could be concluded that, on the average, conservative women struggle more with the shift of authority than men do. More research would need to be done to address that question fully.


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Graduation Date





Marinara, Martha


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Arts and Sciences



Degree Program









Release Date

August 2005

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)