Creating Cultures of Belonging is a practical guide to making organizations friendly to both men and women in leadership.
The authors first outline the ways in which missional organizations have demonstrated difficulty with integrating women into the workings and leadership of their groups. Next, they give a brief background for why this is an important topic. Then, they provide numerous chapters with specific, applicable strategies for correcting that problem.
A book like this turns upon how useful its strategies are. Identifying the problem is one thing, but providing solutions is another. Thankfully, Birmingham and Simard give numerous useful applications of strategies to directly address inequalities in the workplace. Not only that, but they also continue to bring up potential difficulties that may not be on people’s radar related to those same topics. For example, the concept of “living wage” has been influenced by the notion that men are the income earners and so they need to be paid enough (more) to make a living–the authors point out how this mindset can impact those making decisions regarding raises (136-138). Without awareness of the problem and the ways in which certain background beliefs play into it, there is no possibility for a solution. Time and again the authors provide these kind of asides with real, workable solutions.
There are also numerous charts, helpful questions, and ideas for goal-setting found throughout the book. Indeed, this is the kind of work someone wishing to increase the equality of men and women in an organization can pick up and immediately start to use and incorporate in everyday life.
A couple points of critique for the book. One is fairly simple: I wish it had included an index. The chapters are well-organized and have sub-headings, but an index would make the utility of the book increase. Second, the authors don’t really address questions beyond male-female dichotomy in the work. That is, there isn’t guidance about how to apply these practices to sexual minorities. No matter what an organization’s stance is on political topics related to this, the fact remains that this is a question that won’t go away. Not only that, but many Christian groups have stances that are affirming and welcoming to sexual minorities, and the book would have been served to have a chapter or related sections to help integrate practices for those organizations.
Creating Cultures of Belonging does what it sets out to do. Birmingham and Simard provide practical, applicable ways to make organizations places that are welcoming to men and women. It doesn’t move beyond that dichotomy, but it does provide information within that framework.
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