Stained-Glass Partition: Cross-Sex Collegial Relationships in Christian Academia


Cook School of Intercultural Studies

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This study focused on the glass partition, a term used to describe the challenges that exist in forming and maintaining cross-sex collegial relationships in the workplace. Women may be limited in their ability to benefit from collegial relationships due to the challenges of cross-sex relationships, particularly in a Christian environment. We use the term stained-glass partition to describe the effects of gender separation in a Christian university atmosphere, a research focus that has been largely unexamined to date. In this single-institution study, 21 full-time faculty were interviewed regarding their perceptions of cross-sex relationships at work. Data were analyzed using grounded theory procedures to allow major themes to emerge. Results showed that there is a stained-glass partition operating at the university—sometimes created intentionally and partially based on fear—that has a disproportionately negative impact on women faculty. The partition can be mitigated through routine collegial interactions such as committee work and through viewing one another as sacred siblings rather than a sexual “other.” Students, faculty, and the university as a whole benefit when the partition is reduced, and the Christian faith commitment that is held in common by community members provides a helpful perspective in moving relationships away from power into agape-love and sibling-type relationships. Implications for practice and suggestions for future research are presented.


Christian higher education;

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Christian Higher Education

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