Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

She Who Leads Anyway!

Written by: on March 15, 2024

Let me tell you a story about a shy, little girl.  She happened to be part of a family that a lot of people knew and sometimes put on a pedestal.  They were talented and outgoing.  This little girl did not want any attention, she just wanted to live her life.  In her sophomore year of high school, she was called into the guidance office much to her chagrin.  She was told she was chosen to be the school’s representative to a leadership seminar in the state’s capital. What?  Her?  Well, okay.  This is where it all awoke for her.  She is a leader.

As time went on and she was attending church, she kept getting chosen to lead the youth group, to work out her faith and her leadership…she noted…where are the women leaders? By sheer experience, this girl was breaking free of her own unconscious bias of women don’t lead, especially in the church.  It started to unravel for her.

In Pragya Agarwal’s book SWAY: Unravelling unconscious bias, Pragya begins her story in much the same way, recognizing that because she was a girl there were things she couldn’t or shouldn’t do.

“What is unconscious bias? Unconscious (or implicit) bias is a term that describes the associations we hold, outside our conscious awareness and control.  Unconscious bias affects everyone. Unconscious bias is triggered by our brain automatically making quick judgments and assessments.”[1]

 Agarwal notes “Not all bias is implicit”[2], she goes on to note “Unconscious bias does not explain all prejudice and discrimination. And there is a real danger of unconscious bias being reduced to a ‘trend’ or a ‘fluff word’ and being used to excuse all sorts of discriminatory behaviour.”[3]  So the question is, how do we help ourselves out of our own unconscious biases?  Can we be conscious of what is unconscious?  Probably so, but what we need to be even more aware of is that we have to admit we were wrong in our thinking!  “When we discover that we have been wrong, we say that we were under an illusion, and when we no longer believe in something, we say that we are disillusioned. People who possess the truth are perceptive, insightful, observant, illuminated, enlightened, and visionary; by contrast, the ignorant are in the dark.”[4]

As you have probably surmised, this little girl at the beginning of the story was me.  I came into my vocational call as a leader and called into ministry in a denomination that did not support women in leadership.  Throughout college at a Christian University, I continued to strive for and get every leadership position I went for: tried out of for the cheer team and was made captain in a week, became a Resident Assistant, Chair of the Homecoming Committee, etc.… As I continued on in these leadership roles I had to reconcile my childhood faith.  I had to make the courageous decision that I was not going to be within this denomination.  Some are called to make changes from within and some need to leave. I left.

What gave me this courage?  This story in the bible:

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise. And they remembered his words and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.   Luke 24-5-9.[5]

The very first people to declare the Gospel that Jesus is Risen were women!  They were the first gospel preachers!  I am not making the declaration that my denomination had implicit bias (although that may how the church has not adapted to new ways of understanding scripture) but to “see” or become conscious of this story with a whole new way of understanding this part of the Easter story, was what I needed to leave.  I was biased against myself!

While Agarwal does a very in depth and thorough background of how Unconscious or implicit bias works and puts many wonderful examples of implicit bias, she did not leave room in her book on how to address fixing or becoming aware of this bias.  While unravelling this is part of waking up to our own biases.  In her epilogue, called De-Biasing 101, Agarwal gives 4 pages to this topic.  It feels unfinished to do so much unravelling and be left with a mess and to not have ways to re-weave our conscious into something productive for our own bias and for those around us.

If I had more time to research, I’d like to find more books on ways to wake us up from our own biases, and how to teach implicit bias.  Perhaps this author could write a series where she unravels it in this book, how to move through this new threshold of di-biasing and then how to move into creating new generations who are aware of unconscious bias from the get-go?  Is this wishful thinking?  Another NPO for a wicked problem? How to educate and train on implicit bias?

[1] https://www.imperial.ac.uk/equality/resources/unconscious-bias/#:~:text=What%20is%20unconscious%20bias%3F,making%20quick%20judgments%20and%20assessments.

[2] Agarwal, Pragya. SWAY:  Unravelling unconscious bias. (London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020) 11.

[3] Agarwal, 11

[4] Schulz, Kathryn. Being Wrong; Adventures in the margin of error. (New York, HarperCollins Publishing, 2010) 53.


[5]  https://www.bible.com/bible/2020/LUK.24.RSV

About the Author


Jana Dluehosh

Jana serves as a Spiritual Care Supervisor for Signature Hospice in Portland, OR. She chairs the corporate Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging committee as well as presents and consults with chronically ill patients on addressing Quality of Life versus and alongside Medical treatment. She has trained as a World Religions and Enneagram Spiritual Director through an Anam Cara apprenticeship through the Sacred Art of Living center in Bend, OR. Jana utilizes a Celtic Spirituality approach toward life as a way to find common ground with diverse populations and faith traditions. She has mentored nursing students for several years at the University of Portland in a class called Theological Perspectives on Suffering and Death, and has taught in the Graduate Counseling program at Portland Seminary in the Trauma Certificate program on Grief.

7 responses to “She Who Leads Anyway!”

  1. Kally Elliott says:


    I am so glad that you are a leader in the church and in so many other spaces in our world. I too, wrote about implicit bias towards women in the church and how it affected me. Language, role models, all of those things matter!

    I loved your paragraph on wishing Agarwal would write a book on how to untangle our biased thinking and how to train others to do so. I am supposed to preach on racism in a few weeks – a topic I’ve had to preach on several times in the last few years – and I’m wondering how I might best use Agarwal’s book to help me. Having a training guide would be so very helpful. I wonder if someone has written one…

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Kally, as you know, I am so grateful to be on this journey with you. I am thankful you had an opportunity to see women in leadership from a young age. It seems that most of the women in our cohort have….and it makes me realize “why am I the only one (as far as I know) who made it this far with my story?” It takes a lot of “rebellion” I suppose for me to have made it to a Doctorate in Leadership coming from where I did. I appreciate all the women in our year and so thankful to be on this journey with all of you!

      P.S. I happen to like the “rebellion” word so I mean that in a positive:)

  2. Adam Harris says:

    Love your post! Glad you are paving the way, I think the best way to break bias is to “be” what others don’t have a box for and model it. You are doing it, keep it up friend!

  3. Well, you definitely remind me of Joan of Arc, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Sojourner Truth because you are wisely, gracefully, and intentionally changing history…and I can say, I actually know Jana Dluehosh.
    Thank you for your post and allowing us another window into your wonderful life.
    I have an easy question for you. What is one idea you have to train or educate others in implicit bias?

  4. mm Russell Chun says:

    I find your courage laudable for leaving a denomination that doesn’t see the value in women leaders.

    With that being said, I find myself at odds with minorities that have been victimized. My lived experiences have leaned more towards merit based (what you do) than what you look like. So the dialogue in the blogposts have been enlightening for me.

    My many encounters with random acts of ignorance regarding race (in many countries) have developed in me (an unconscious bias?) to throw my energies where I can have an impact rather into those arguments/debates/racial injustices that abound in every generation.

    In my NPO I was advised NOT to create an debate with anti immigration churches, but to align and support those who do “love the foreigner amongst us.”

    Choosing our battles?

    Hmmmm…as Pooh bear says…think,think, think.


  5. mm Dinka Utomo says:

    Hi Jana!

    I really enjoyed reading your analysis in this week’s post. You wrote, “If I had more time to research, I’d like to find more books on ways to wake us up from our own biases, and how to teach implicit bias.” What experiences have you had regarding your implicit bias towards others? How do you handle that?

  6. mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

    I loved your post. I preached on the women at the cross yesterday at a Women’s Day Celebration. I was so pleased to see it in your post. I am so grateful that you are leading in spaces that allow you to make an impact on lives at very vulnerable times. I appreciate that you continue to ask the difficult questions and face the answers with bravery.

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