Thursday, March 01, 2012

Why are women more religious than men?

Today I am speaking at a Flinders University Sociology seminar. I am providing a response to a visiting lecturer from the University of Aberdeen, Dr Marta Trzebiatowska, who will address the topic:

Why are women more religious than men?

She notes the irony that while women tend to be excluded from leadership, women are more religious than men, both in traditional religions and in New Age spirituality and in ‘supersitions.’

In my response I will mention two pieces of research. First the work of Leslie J. Francis, Robert Barlow and Jeremy Martineau, “Outreach at the County Show: A Study in Psychological Profiling,” Rural Theology 9.1 (2011) 61–67 who argue that more women than men are of the ISFJ personality type and that this personality types connects with a number of recognizable Christian strengths. The preference for introversion values a reflective style of contemplative worship; the preference for sensing values continuity, tradition, stability; the preference for feeling values a loving, caring God; the preference for judging values organization and structure.

β€œThe ISFJ profile is also, psychologically speaking, a very feminine profile, as reflected by the fact that many more women than men report this profile in the UK population as a whole, 18% compared with 7% (Kendall, 1998). Such a strong ISFJ presence in church congregations contributes to the broader feminization of the Anglican Church.”

So like attracts like and so the very spirituality of the church is more likely to attract women. Which still leaves the chicken or egg question. Did it start with the spirituality, or was the spirituality shaped by gender?

Posted by steve at 10:27 AM


  1. Interesting. I have thought a few times in recent years that the stereotype of “good Christian” (and particularly “good Christian leader”) was becoming more and more extroverted (could be wrong about that, of course). Makes for some interesting thinking when considered alongside your comments, Steve.

    Also, do you have easy access to figures on gender representation in the pentecostal churches? It seems to me they emphasise less some of the things you identify as having synergy ISFJ personality type, so it would be interesting to see whether that affects their gender representation.

    Comment by IainM — March 1, 2012 @ 10:48 am

  2. Hi Steve.
    Last time I did Myers Briggs, I was ENTP: the exact opposite of the ISFJ personality type that “connects with a number of Christian strengths”. I wonder if that’s why I ended up becoming a minister?

    Comment by Ivan — March 1, 2012 @ 10:51 am

  3. Ivan,

    research by Leslie Francis shows that out of 853 clergy, the majority were NT, followed by SJ, then NT, then SP.

    what is also interesting is that a further study of ordained local pastors showed that the majority were SJ.

    Does that say something about training paths?


    Comment by steve — March 1, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

  4. Ian, the work is mainly mainline and yes, it would be great to study different denominations. Over lunch today one of my colleagues reckoned that his Dutch Reformed friends tended to be NT. So do denominational worship styles flow through personality?

    And no, don’t ask me what Jesus MBTI is πŸ™‚


    Comment by steve — March 1, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

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