Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Former General Secretary of the Wesleyan Church: Religion holds women back. Or does it?

22 Jul, 2019

Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon was the General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church. She was also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Role of Religion.

Together with Brian Grim, she looked at the role of religious freedom in gender empowerment. Religion is often seen as a barrier to gender parity. Stories abound of gender-based violence done in the name of religion. As a result, in many cases, the issues of religion and gender parity are often dismissed as too complicated to address. There appears to be no way to unwind this rather complex multi-institution. However, a critical factor overlooked in this conversation is religious freedom. Unless there is religious freedom, minority groups, including women, will not be at the table and their vital, productive and creative voices will not be heard.

Corporations and economies will suffer if they miss out on the contribution of women. The denial of religious freedom contributes to gender inequality throughout the world. Extremist ideologies such as ISIS represent the complete loss of religious freedom, and when respect for a diversity of religious beliefs and practices disappears, gender equality suffers.

Dr. Lyon has served on the board of directors at many organizations she believes in representing The Wesleyan Church including the National Association of Evangelicals Executive Committee, Christian Community Development Association, National Religious Partnership for the Environment, Asbury Theological Seminary Board, Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith of the World Economic Forum, and serves as an Ex – Officio member for all Wesleyan Institutions of Higher Education.