More has changed for working women than for nearly any other group in the last twelve months. Women have been making great strides in the workplace over the past five decades, however, COVID-19 disrupted that progress. This year, Biola’s annual Woven Conference will address unique issues women face in the workplace and provide an opportunity to hear stories of how God has guided women through their careers.

Much has been written recently on the changing roles and trajectory of women in the workplace, so it is perhaps ironic that working moms have been hit the hardest during this pandemic. The impact on women in the workplace due to COVID has been termed a “Shecession” — the exodus of women from the workplace, whether by force or by choice.

It is hard to precisely calculate the long-term effects of COVID when it comes to women in the workplace, but it seems to be heading toward a one-step-forward, five-steps-back scenario. The strides women have made over the past four to five decades have taken a hit and their employment numbers are now more reflective of the 1980s.

The shutdowns we’ve seen this past year have disproportionately affected women. The affected industries that were specifically deemed to not be essential — and were thus shuttered — have left many women without an income.

In addition, many women in the workplace were sent home to work remotely. In a normal world, this might actually be preferred, but has been made extremely complicated by the shutdowns of schools and daycare centers, leaving many women with the task of juggling their work and homeschooling simultaneously.

How can the church support Christian women in the workplace today?

It’s a great question, but this dialogue is sorely lacking in many of our churches today. Many Christian women feel that being in the workplace is perceived as God’s second best for them, which leads them to feel like second-class citizens in a sea of stay-at-home moms. The fallacy that there is one prescribed way for Christian women to be is loud and ever-present in Christian culture. I find it a bit ironic that the Proverbs 31 woman is brought up so often as the model for women to follow, when she is one who actually goes out into the workplace and is savvy in her business dealings. (Go 31!)

This is one reason we began the Woven Conference. The whole intent of the conference is to encourage women in God’s Word, in their walk with the Lord and in the workplace. The workplace is where God has placed them, to worship Him in their work, to be salt and light to those around them and to love those they encounter.

The conference is an opportunity to hear from Christian women who have risen in the ranks of their chosen field, want to talk about God’s work in their lives and desire to encourage this next generation of women entering the workforce. It has also been a place for established working women to come and be encouraged and refreshed.

The when and if and how of work will look different for us all, and seasons in life will come and go. Whether you are out in the workplace or not may be reflective of your current season. God’s love of creativity and diversity means He has a different story and path for each of us. Teaching this truth and encouraging all women, whether they work outside the home or not, is a great start to helping Christian women walk well, wherever God has placed them.

Encouraging women to steward the talents God has given them is an open opportunity for our churches today. Yes, if married, these women should have spouses who are supportive and who encourage them in the work they do outside the home. But how sweet it would be for all Christian women to find encouragement from their church families as well!

Woven 2021 is one place that encouragement will happen. Join Crowell School of Business for Woven Conference 2021 on Friday, February 26 beginning at 6:30 p.m. The conference is free this year, but registration is required. More information and a registration link are available online.

Laureen Mgrdichian has been an associate professor at Biola since 2012, and teaches in the area of marketing, consumer behavior, leadership and entrepreneurship. Read Mgrdichian’s full bio.