In all of the temples that I have seen, only males serve as priests. I don't remember seeing any women priestesses. Though there are a few famous women devotees like Aandaal, Meera Bai, etc. there are seldom any women priestesses in our temples. Even in temples dedicated to Shakthi and Kaali only males serve as priests (as far as I know). Why are women restricted from priesthood?
Right from the Vedic times till this date, women are not prohibited from learning vedas. There have been many women purohits (priests who have expertise in rituals outside of temples) in the past and present.
However we rarely encounter women pujaris (temple priests) because of the following physiological and sociological reasons:
Puja should be done only with Sattva dominant body and mind During the menstruation period, there is "Rajas" nature dominant in female body (high emotional activity).
Due to this, on a women may not be able to perform temple duties on 4-5 days per month.
Naturally it becomes difficult to find a replacement priest for just 4-5 days
Also, not to forget that during pregnancy too, a woman would be unable to carry out daily rituals.
A Women/Girl should not be a Priestess because of 2 reasons.
- They are referred to be "Rajaswale". During the period of "Rutu Chakra" (menstrual cycle) they are forbidden to enter temples (I don't know the actual reason).
- Since the Priests job is to chant Mantras. All Mantras need to be pronounced in an order of increasing and decreasing voice (swara) sometimes need to hold breath to complete sentence perfectly, otherwise the result will be nil (or some miss spell will give bad results). This will produce pressure on the stomach (Nabhi) at same location where women/girls will have Uterus (Garbha Kosha). If this pressure applied continuously (priests need to chant daily) on it, this may lead to some pregnancy issues in them. Which is not good.
Women can be priests too. In Ancient India, girls graduating out of gurukul(yes!) either chose to become Brahmavadinis(seekers of knowledge) or get married. In vedic tradition, there is nothing like wife following the husband... as it preaches equality and friendship between the partners. (So, please, do some thorough reading than blindy following hear-say interpretations of "dharma." Knowledge is meant for mankind - the human race. Jnana and Vairagya - both these journeys are carried out independently by every individual. Simple!