Buried Talents: Overcoming Gendered Socialization to Answer God's Call, By Susan Harris Howell
Buried Talents
  • Length: 160 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: April 26, 2022
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0250
  • ISBN: 9781514002506

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Reader's Choice Award Winner

If God is calling women to lead, what's holding them back?

Susan Harris Howell has spent years helping students investigate this question. In Buried Talents, she makes clear how gender disparity in leadership is directly connected to a larger, less overt issue: gendered socialization. Howell examines gendered messages people encounter inside and outside the church in each stage of life, showing how they often create misconceptions about who women are, what they're capable of, and how they fit into God's work. As these messages pull men toward leadership, they push women away from it.

God's call to leadership doesn't come in a vacuum. It comes to particular people who have, from childhood through adulthood, been shaped by subtle forms of socialization. Using social science research and interviews to explain these forces, Howell offers psychological and practical tools for both women and men to make more balanced vocational decisions. A discussion guide and suggested reading lists are also included to help readers engage and apply the content.

As opportunities for women continue to expand, too many still hold back in responding to God's call. Buried Talents provides compelling guidance for how we can remove obstacles that keep women from fully using their gifts.

"The cumulative effect of gendered socialization is profound. With clarity and precision, psychologist Dr. Susan Harris Howell diagnoses what gendered socialization is as well as the problems it has caused. Focused primarily on the United States, she examines layer upon layer of accumulated messages that men are superior to women. Often subtle, these ideas permeate educational practices, media portrayals, linguistic conventions, division-of-labor expectations, and more. Tragically, the outworking of such socialization often results in women's opting out of their God-given callings—burying their talents under sedimented layers of 'you can't' or 'you shouldn't.' By understanding these patterns and systems, we can unearth the talents that have been buried, and even more hopefully, empower the next generation to invest their talents with confidence."

Christa L. McKirland, Logia International, lecturer in systematic theology at Carey Baptist College

"Some may think today that the battle for women's leadership is done. However, Dr. Howell shows us the many implicit ways women and men are socialized from childhood to adulthood to discourage women from following God's call into church leadership. She ends her sobering account with chapters on individually and communally restoring self-confidence and honest self-appraisal. Buried Talents is a stimulus for change that all should read. It ends on a note of hope."

Aída Besançon Spencer, senior professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and coeditor and author of Christian Egalitarian Leadership

"In Buried Talents, psychologist Susan Harris Howell shines a light on the subtle but potent forces of socialization that tend to prevent women from serving in church leadership. This work of illumination is a gift to the church, offering a way out of the confines of gender essentialism and into a world where women and men can truly flourish."

Rob Dixon, associate regional ministry director with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and author of Together in Ministry: Women and Men in Flourishing Partnerships

"I guarantee you will experience many aha! moments as you read Buried Talents. Susan Harris Howell identifies both inner obstacles as well as societal norms that contribute to women holding back our leadership gifts. This is a book I would love to have read as a young girl trying to discern if it was a mistake that I was entrusted with gifts of leadership and teaching."

Nancy Beach, leadership coach and author of Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

"Articulate, well-researched, encouraging, and challenging, Buried Talents uses Susan Harris Howell's decades of leadership and teaching experience to extrapolate not only the facts but the heart and struggle behind today's gender issues. Filled with resources, helpful suggestions, and engaging stories, this book is a must-read for anyone looking to identify, affirm, and develop the strengths of both women and men as we live and lead together."

Kadi Cole, leadership consultant, executive coach, and author of Developing Female

"Too many leadership gifts of women are buried and blocked by both implicit and explicit gender bias. Gender bias is woven into the very fabric of our culture and affects girls and women at every stage of development. Susan Harris Howell methodically unravels the threads that constrain women from pursuing and thriving in leadership in the church and out. A must-read for every person advancing gender equity, especially in the church."

Jeanne Porter King, executive pastor, leadership coach, and author

"When girls or boys are socialized in gendered roles that limit what they can or cannot do, the loss can be immense to families, to communities, and to the church. Dr. Susan Harris Howell has given us a great gift: it is the wisdom of a psychologist in understanding the impact of myriad influences on our socialization throughout our lifetime. This is a book the church has long needed in light of a gender bias that limits the ways in which women or men are allowed to serve Jesus Christ."

Alice Mathews, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, retired, and author of Gender Roles and the People of God

"This challenging book will open your eyes, convict, and inspire. Susan's research helped me trace the roots of my conditioning around gender roles. And it left me with a clear sense of actionable steps to better advocate for myself and to create a more equitable world for the women who will come after me. An outstanding contribution for women and men in ministry, and beyond."

Samantha Beach Kiley, creative arts pastor

Read an Excerpt


List of Tables
1. Gendered Socialization in Childhood
2. Gendered Socialization in Adolescence
3. Gendered Socialization in Adulthood
4. Two Stories: Sarah and Michael
5. Creating More Accurate Self-Perceptions
6. Building a Support System
7. Paying It Forward
Discussion Guide


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Susan Harris Howell

Susan Harris Howell (EdD, University of Louisville) is professor of psychology at Campbellsville University, where she teaches on gender studies and integrating faith and psychology. She frequently writes and speaks for Christians for Biblical Equality.