Finding Her Voice – A Belated Story

I wrote this piece in August last year upon request from a publication, but it was never published. It was about the Evangelical Women in Academic Conference at Ridley College, held July 28th, 2018. I thought I’d post it up here for my readers. Looking at this piece again, I was reminded of how encouraging this conference was… and it also made me excited for this year’s conference which is on Saturday 3rd August 2019. The theme is Grounded: in the Body, in Time and Place, in Scripture and the main speakers are Dr Paula Gooder and Dr Jude Long. You can find out more information here. There are currently no places left for the Saturday but still room for the informal Friday evening.

Written in August, 2018

120 Women from 6 states gathered at Ridley College for the Evangelical Women in Academia Conference, Finding Her Voice. The conference is now in its second year and its purpose is to increase the number of Evangelical women writing, publishing and teaching. 

Dr Katy Smith was a main speaker at the conference. After lecturing in Old Testament at Bible College of South Australia, Katy is now Regional Director for CMS South Australia and Northern Territory and writing a commentary on Exodus for Zondervan. In her talk, Katy took us on a tour of Genesis, looking at how God can bring order from chaos, life from death, good from evil. She then applied this to our lives as women and writers, where we may question our capacity, experience rejection or character failure. “We can master the techniques of writing and speaking, we can draft, redraft until this polished piece of work emerges, but we equally need to put aside the time to invest in ourselves with kindness and patience, shaping, establishing our own character and identity.”  

Katya Covrett was this year’s international guest speaker. Born and raised in Russia, Katya became a Christian at university through American missionaries. Her move to the USA to study Systematic Theology and New Testament became more permanent when she fell both in love and fell into publishing. Her first trip to Australia, Katya flew down from her now home of Grand Rapids, Michigan – a centre for Christian publishing. She is the Executive Editor of Zondervan Academic, and has a gift of emboldening female scholars in academic publishing. 

In her keynote address, Katya spoke on of the difficulty of finding your voice as women in academic publishing. “The collective chorus of Christian academia is decidedly homogenous, white, and male.” Having worked hard to address the problem of imbalance for more than a decade, according to Katya, “lack of women in publishers catalogues is often not for lack of trying.” She encouraged us to build strong social networks and embrace opportunities for connection, something not available to women of decades past. This is what Ridley is providing, with several networks created in the last few years; preaching, writing and academia. This is under the leadership of three Ridley faculty, Anthea McCall, Diane Hockridge, and Jill Firth.  

This conference was also an opportunity for networking. Sharon Cheung is a Ridley Student working with City Bible Forum helping women and young workers connect their faith and work. At Finding Her Voice, she was encouraged by “the community of women who attended represented a diverse range of life stage, giftings and experiences – all sharing the same hope in Jesus.” Similarly, Erin Martine Sessions, Associate Academic Dean at Morling College in Sydney, was most inspired by “hearing what other women, of all ages and stages, are working on and planning for the future”. For Erin, the biggest challenge was doing the trip from to Melbourne with a 6-month old baby, but ultimately found the conference a positive experience, with many women quick to jump in with support. 

In an interview with Katya Covrett on the Friday evening, we found out that of the 3500 unsolicited book proposals Zondervan receive, only 7 are published. One of the practical workshops offered was from Katya – a guide to getting published, including how to write a book proposal. We learned that, when it comes to who is going to endorse your book, it doesn’t mean three wishes (i.e. don’t just put down N.T Wright as he probably most definitely won’t do it). Women also had the opportunity to have a short one-on-one session with Katya to pitch a book idea or get publishing advice – a rare opportunity indeed. 

Dr Moyra Dale, ethnographer and educator, ran a workshop on finding your vocation, encouraging women to dream big and seek contentment. Drawing together the themes of the conference, their group reflected on the long line of women who went before them and those who journey alongside them as they seek to live out their calling. Surrounding the workshop room were interviews with inspiring women from around the world. 

“The first step to finding your voice is believing you have one. You have something to say, something to contribute… The second step is remembering you’re not alone… Female role models and mentors, in person and in books, needs to be a part of your support network.”

Katya Covrett

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