A Woman’s Work: Roles of Women in World Religions


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A Woman’s Work: Roles of Women in World Religions

For women, some religions allow more freedoms than others, offering women positions of power and scriptural equality with men. Let’s take a look at the roles of women in five major religions.

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center …(1)
86% of women in the U.S. are affiliated with a religion.
63% say that religion is an important part of their lives.
44% attend worship services at least on a weekly basis.

Christianity (1,2,3)

U.S. population percentage: 70.6%

World population percentage: 31.5%

Percentage of female members: 55% (Protestantism)

Notable women in scripture: Mary, mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist.

In positions of power? Yes, in preaching, teaching and missionary roles.

Main responsibilities of women: Raise and teach children, maintain a Godly household, refer to husband on familial and religious matters, maintain social groups in church.

Islam (1,4,5)

U.S. population percentage: 0.9%

World population percentage: 23.2%

Percentage of female members: 35%

Notable women in scripture: Aisha, wife of the Prophet Muhammad, and Hawwa, the wife of Adam.

In positions of power? Yes, active in politics and religious organizations like The Muslim Brotherhood.

Main responsibilities of women: Care for children, pass on traditions to children, serve husband in home, follow gender-specific commandments, assist husband and other male family members in political and religious decisions, retain and care for familial assets.

Judaism (1,6)

U.S. population percentage: 1.9%

World population percentage: 0.2%

Percentage of female members: 48%

Notable women in scripture: Miriam, sister of Moses, and 7 of the 55 prophets in the Bible are women.

In positions of power? Yes.

Main responsibilities of women: As God is both female and male, and the first human created was of both genders, there is less of an emphasis on specific gender roles. But women are expected to perform more intellectual tasks, while men perform more physical tasks.

Hinduism (1,7,8)

U.S. population percentage: 0.7%

World population percentage: 15%

Percentage of female members: 38%

Notable women in scripture: Shakti, the Universal Mother, and Sita, part of the Godhead.

In positions of power? No, not typical except in very rich, powerful families. Women cannot officiate ceremonies.

Main responsibilities of women: Raise and care for children, be part of an arranged marriage, help husband perform traditional ceremonies, care for elderly family members, maintain household.

Buddhism (1,9,10)

U.S. population percentage: 0.7%

World population percentage: 7.1%

Percentage of female members: 49%

Notable women in scripture: Abhirupananda, from the Order of the Buddha, and Jenti, a follower of the Buddha.

In positions of power? Yes.

Main responsibilities of women: Maintain household, help raise children, act as stand-in for husband in decision-making when husband is unavailable, possibly co-exist peacefully with husband’s “co-wives” if in polygamous marriage.


1. https://www.pewforum.org
2. https://www.theopedia.com
3. https://www.womeninthebible.net
4. https://www.pbs.org/
5. https://islam.about.com
6. https://www.jewfaq.org
7. https://www.hinduwebsite.com
8. https://hinduism.iskcon.org
9. https://www.buddhanet.net
10. https://www.urbandharma.org