Women, Faith, and the Workplace

On Thursday, February 1, Rebekah Marr spoke at the women’s event entitled “Women, Faith, and the Workplace, A Dialogue on Current Events” which began at 7 p.m. in Hannah Bloomquist’s apartment. Around fifty female Covenant students came and enjoyed Niedlov’s cookies and a special blend of Goodman’s coffee made by women.

The event consisted of a Q&A discussion primarily focused on Marr’s personal experiences in the workplace and the challenges she has faced from being a woman. Marr also gave advice on how to handle certain situations in the workplace, concentrating on how to honor both her male and female colleagues.  

Stephanie Formenti, the Chapel Associate for Discipleship who began working at Covenant this January, began the event by discussing the current social climate. She touched on the new fourth wave of feminism spurred by the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the recent news on the U.S.A. Women’s gymnastics coach Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse case.

Formenti referenced Dorothy Sayer’s book Are Women Human? promoting women as individuals. The book explains the terms “male” and “female” are merely adjectives describing humans, and both should be treated as such. Then, she introduced her friend and fellow alumna Rebekah Marr to begin the discussion on her personal experiences in the workplace in light of these current events.

Marr, who graduated from Covenant in 2004, is a founder of CO.STARTERS, a Chattanooga-based organization supporting communities in building entrepreneurial ecosystems through equipping startups of all kinds with the necessary resources and tools. She immediately opened up the floor to any questions regarding her experiences as a working woman, wondering what the women who attended the event wanted to know.

Sophomore Jessica Florey opened up discussion by asking if Marr truly has experienced any differing treatment as a woman in the workplace. Marr replied, “I definitely have said many times over in my career that if I were a man, this would be very different for me.” She discussed how her job experiences have been influenced by her sex. Examples include: not being allowed to go on work-related trips since many men’s wives were uncomfortable with her traveling with them and being told she would not be able to advance in certain companies because she is a woman.

Another question was asked about how Marr balances her career and home life. “It is a myth that you can have it all, I believe,” Marr said. She continued, “I never personally felt the pressure to choose,” but that “it’s hard to do both. It’s worthwhile for me to do both, but it’s hard.” She shared she did not want to have kids at the beginning of her marriage because, “I love working and being able to contribute to the world around me,” so she and her husband chose to wait until later in life to begin a family.

Marr also offered advice in regards to her experience in unhealthy work environments, stating that in certain cases, unequal treatment cannot be fought, and it may be better to find new employment. She also had been encouraged in her career to document any instances of unequal treatment in case she ever needed to reference incidents in the future. Logging these moments, Marr explained, also helped her feel more in control of situations of differential treatment.

Towards the end of the event, Leda Goodman joined Formenti and Marr on the couch and began a panel of sorts contributing to the conversation. All three women offered wisdom from their work experience, faith, and family life. Sophomore Natalie Northcutt commented on their input saying, “It was awesome to hear from a different generation of women who have learned much and have a lot to teach.”

Following the event, senior Abby Camilli commented as women who will all probably have to deal with these current issues particularly in the workplace, “It’s refreshing to hear the honest thoughts of a mature Christian woman who has dealt with these issues for many years…. I was stimulated to think more earnestly and more biblically about what our responses should be.”

In the future, Camilli hopes to see this same event with even more thoughtful engagement on these issues in the workplace. She encouraged a place for “dynamic discussion,” offering ideas such as breaking into smaller groups to discuss real-life situations involving these potential issues. Likewise, Northcutt “greatly enjoyed being a part of a greater conversation on campus,” and is excited to see more events in the future that encourage this godly support of women.

So, what should you expect in the future? Formenti confirmed she plans on having a women’s event similar to this one every year during the “Calling Beyond Covenant” chapel series. She hopes that, in the future, the guest speaker for the women’s event will also speak in chapel and interact with students at a chapel luncheon. Formenti is excited to continue these conversations on women, faith, and the workplace at Covenant College.