The Vatican may be employing more women in recent years but they rarely hold top positions, Vatican Radio reports. The numbers were released Friday by Vatican Radio ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.
The figures were divided into two categories: employees of the Governorate for Vatican City State, which includes the Vatican Museums and Vatican Post Office, and employees of the Holy See, the body that governs the Roman Catholic Church. According to the news outlet, the number of women employed by Vatican City has nearly doubled over the past decade from 195 in 2004 to 371 in 2014.
However, in the offices of the Holy See, the numbers have remained relatively constant. In 2010, 288 women made up 17 percent of the workforce. In 2014 that number rose by one percentage point to include 391 women.
According to Vatican Radio, 41 percent of women who work for the Holy See have university degrees and hold professional positions including department heads, archivists and historians – but they rarely hold leadership positions. Sister Nicoletta Spezzati at the Congregation for Religious and laywoman Flaminia Giovanelli at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace are the sole female undersecretaries employed by the Holy See.
While the Catholic Church has not budged on allowing female clergy, it has employed women for decades. Exactly 100 years ago, the Vatican hired its first woman, Anna Pezzoli, who worked with logistics for papal celebrations. By 1929, more women had entered the Vatican workforce, but the biggest push came after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. Starting in 1967, Rosemary Goldie, an Australian theologian, served as a vice secretary at the Council for the Laity for 10 years. In 1970, Pope Paul VI appointed the first female undersecretary, Sister Enrica Rosanna at the Congregation for Religious.
Pope Francis has promised to name more women to higher-ranking positions at the Vatican, but he has not budged on the church’s stance toward ordination of women.
While women struggle to break the stained glass ceiling at the Vatican, outside its holy walls some Catholic women have made strides. In June, Sister Donna Markham will become the first female head of Catholic Charities, one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the United States.