I came across this video, and it answered a lot of questions for me.
It is a conversation between the General presidents of the Relief Society, the Young Women, and the Primary. The three women shared how they are involved in the decision making process of the church. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles use the council system, and there are women on those councils. The opinions and ideas and suggestions and revelation of women are shared and listened to. Before watching this video, I thought the Quorum of the Twelve had an exclusive Boys-only club where they made all the decisions for the whole church. Counseling with Our Councils is a book by Elder M. Russell Ballard on the correct process of councils. He describes a wonderful balance between respecting leadership roles, hearing the ideas of all, and unitedly coming to a decision.
When I was at BYU, I lived in a singles’ ward that really embraced the council system. Everyone in the ward did not have a specific calling. Some did. Some were the Relief Society President(s), some were the Elders’ Quorum President(s), pianists, choristers, … that’s all I can think of. The rest were either a chair of a council or a co-chair, or a member of the council. At one point I was on the Friendship Council, then the Temple and Family History Council, then the Home Evening Council. Individual councils would meet together. Once a month the council chairs, co-chairs, and a member of the council would go to a meeting with the bishopric and all the other chairs. It might have been Ward Council. It was awesome. Women and men had equal voice, women or men could be chairs of councils, members on the committee had more voice and more responsibility.
For example, the members of the Music council would together decide on things like choirs, choristers, pianists, musical numbers, hymn selections, etc. Burdens were shared and individually chosen.
I always felt like I had exactly enough to do, because I helped determine that. I always felt listened to. I always felt important to the ward.
I recently read of a study where they found that women naturally participate less in a group of which they are the minority. There are a few things leaders can do to change this (invite more women, or rule that decisions must be unanimous). But also, women themselves can understand this tendency and consciously overcome it. There is nothing in the doctrine of the church that says that women should be seen and not heard. Be heard!