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Data and Deborah: Reflections from Harrison Butker's Commencement Speech at IBC

As a champion for gender equity that benefits both men and women, I have taken some time to process the comments by Harrison Butker, the Kansas City Chiefs kicker that made national headlines off the field. Butker delivered a powerful commencement speech at Independence Bible College (IBC), emphasizing resilience, teamwork, and the importance of family.

For those of you who missed the headlines, after the mid-May 2024 speech, some remarks sparked support from both sides of his controversial comments directed at women related to women, careers and raising families.

I encourage you to read the entire speech to reach your own conclusion.  For the record, I don’t condone cherry picking statements without context. I also acknowledge that the speech was not written to or for me, but a specific audience that attended a Catholic, faith-based university.

The speech includes a number of points about the political views, church perspectives, leadership behaviors and convictions. Continuing his plea for better, principle-based behaviors  and living, at one point he addressed the female graduates. After he congratulated them, his remarks suggested that while some women may go on to lead successful careers, the majority are excited about marriage and children. He continued to laud his wife, and the role and responsibilities she has in their family household.

First, I don’t have the data to back up any thoughts of the women at that graduation ceremony. I would venture that Mr. Butker did not have that data either. Perhaps he made assumptions based on his perception of the audience, and he certainly had a platform to express his viewpoints. This is a role he said that he did not want, but he was given a platform and felt responsibility to use it. This is not the first time he has spoken about his convictions.

We live in a country where we have freedom of speech, and I would rather learn the root of someone’s beliefs versus making assumptions. Butker seemed to share his honest viewpoint. I am not going to argue the validity of the argument. I also have no desire to perpetuate information without data. We don’t know what the women at that graduation ceremony had on their minds about the future, much like we did not know about the men either.

Next, it is data that inspired me to write this blog, and not my personal experience. My husband and I made a choice years ago; for two decades, my husband was an at home dad to our four children while I worked in corporate America. That is not the topic of the post today. Let’s look at household data, based on U.S. Census Statistics.

The Rise of Single Female Heads of Households in the U.S.: 2023 Statistics and Implications

The 2023 U.S. Census Bureau report, America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2023, highlights a significant demographic trend: the increasing number of households headed by single women. These statistics reveal crucial insights and underline the importance of addressing the unique challenges faced by these households.

Key Statistics

  1. Prevalence: The report shows a marked rise in single female-headed households, reflecting broader societal changes.

  2. Economic Challenges: These households often experience higher rates of poverty compared to married-couple families.

  3. Educational Attainment: Single female heads of households typically have lower levels of educational attainment, impacting their earning potential and economic stability.

  4. Childcare and Support: Single mothers frequently struggle with the dual burden of providing for and nurturing their children without the support of a partner.


  1. Economic Impact: The economic disparities faced by single female-headed households can have long-term effects on the well-being and opportunities available to their children.

  2. Policy Considerations: To support these households, policies must focus on improving access to affordable childcare, education, and job training programs.

  3. Community Support: Strengthening community networks and providing targeted resources can help alleviate some of the pressures faced by single female heads of households.

In fairness to Butker, he addressed the men in the crowd too. He remarks also included:

 “Part of what plagues our society is this lie that has been told to you that men are not necessary in the home or in our communities. As men, we set the tone of the culture, and when that is absent, disorder, dysfunction, and chaos set in. This absence of men in the home is what plays a large role in the violence we see all around the nation. Other countries do not have nearly the same absentee father rates as we find here in the U.S., and a correlation could be made in their drastically lower violence rates, as well.

A Woman’s God-Given Talents, from the Old Testament to Today

I read many responses to Butker’s speech, reflecting support and criticism. I appreciate the response from the sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, an order of nuns affiliated with Benedictine College.

"One of our concerns was the assertion that being a homemaker is the highest calling for a woman. We sisters have dedicated our lives to God and God's people, including the many women whom we have taught and influenced during the past 160 years. These women have made a tremendous difference in the world in their roles as wives and mothers and through their God-given gifts in leadership, scholarship, and their careers."

Again, we don’t have the data. The nuns did not share how many of the women they taught over the years became wives, mothers and/or career professionals with jobs outside the home. They used their God-given

talents, just as Deborah did, the one woman who was both prophet and judge from the book of Judges in the Old Testament of the Bible. She was the only woman among the twelve judges in the Old Testament. She was called upon by God to help deliver Israel.

Deborah, a wife, prophetess and judge of Israel, quietly and obediently stepped into her role to lead in a difficult time. It is reported that she was known as “Mother in Israel,” a name given by the people she led.

Leadership, in the Home and Office, is Not a Gender Issue

As I write in my book, Men-In-The-Middle, gender equity is not a women’s issue, but a leadership issue. Resilience, teamwork and the important of family are not gender issues either. It is time to start a new narrative. Men and women are made differently, and each of us are different. Some of us are more nurturing, some are more assertive, and some are better at numbers and other are more intuitive decision making. It is not black and white, but more of a spectrum of traits, and this is how we make conversations more inclusive. 


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