International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview

women to public organizations will not be enough to dislodge the "administrative man" paradigm; instead, a change of consciousness is necessary, one that replaces traditional ideas of professional expertise with the feminist notion of the authority of personal experience as the ethical basis of administrative practice.

Kathy Ferguson ( 1984) expanded the idea that liberal reforms, such as increasing the number of women in management positions, is not enough to end gender bias in public administration; real change entails a new approach grounded in the historical-cultural experiences of women. Ferguson argued that to encounter bureaucracy on its own terms, such as by integrating women into public organizations, precludes a decisive attack on typical bureaucratic patterns of hierarchy. Only women's "marginal" perspective, which has emerged as a result of their historical exclusion from the public realm, offers the hope of real transformation, redefining notions of power, rationality, and leadership. As Ferguson has noted, "To challenge bureaucracy in the name of the values and goals of feminist discourse is to undermine the chain of command, equalize the participants, subvert the monopoly of information and secrecy of decision-making, and essentially seek to democratize the organization" (pp. 208-209).

Suzanne Franzway, Dianne Court, and R. W. Connell ( 1989) brought feminist theory to bear on the idea of the bureaucratic state, viewing it as an agent in sexual politics, maintaining and perpetuating through its policies gender bias in society at large and, in turn, being shaped by this bias. The bureaucratic state, in other words, is not "outside" society but enmeshed in it, including its patterns of gender relations. The authors maintained that no theory of the state can avoid issues of sex and gender; they are present, if not always visible, as grounding assumptions or limitations to argument. The bureaucratic state supports the interests of men over those of women not only directly through policies but also ideologically, through characterizing what are actually gender-biased state processes as being simply impersonal and neutral.

Camilla Stivers ( 1993) presented a feminist reading of the literature on the legitimacy of the administrative state, a central theme of current public administration scholarship. She argued that ideas of expertise, leadership, and virtue that mark defenses of administrative power have culturally masculine features that privilege masculinity over femininity. This characteristic masculinity of public administration, though ignored by most theorists, contributes to and is sustained by gender bias in society at large. In Stivers' ( 1993) view, "As long as we go on viewing the enterprise of administration as genderless, women will continue to face their present Hobson's choice, which is either to adopt a masculine administrative identity or accept marginalization in the bureaucratic hierarchy" (p. 10).

Even though scholars of public administration tend to praise its differences from private business, Stivers argued, the publicness of public administration is problematic because of the historical and theoretical exclusion of women from the public sphere, which has barred issues such as the division of household labor from policy debate. The administrative state can only function as it does because women bear a lopsided share of the burden of domestic work, without which society would grind to a halt; thus public administrative structures and practices depend for their coherence and their effectiveness on the oppression of women.

Conceptual theorists agree that simply adding women to the bureaucracy will not be enough to end enduring patterns of gender bias; instead, new modes of thought are required, ones that call into question the neutrality of such central ideas as professionalism, leadership, and the public interest. The extent to which administrative agency policies and practices can change will also depend partly on such larger social transformations as the sexual division of labor in the household, a sphere that shapes and is shaped by the administrative state.

Future feminist theorizing in public administration is likely to continue to proceed on both descriptive and conceptual fronts; and indeed, careful empirical study of existing practices in government agencies and conceptual deconstruction and reconstruction reinforce one another. Empirical data on the status of women in public administration have the potential to reshape understanding of issues and justify the need for conceptual transformation, and new, gender-conscious modes of thought can revamp field research approaches in fruitful ways, opening researchers' eyes to new questions and new forms of evidence. Empirical and conceptual work in this area to date strongly suggests not only that gender is a cutting edge issue in public administration but also that there is a great deal of work still to be done.

CAMILLA STIVERS


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Denhardt, Robert B., and Jan Perkins, 1976. "The Coming Death of Administrative Man." Public Administrative Review, vol. 36, no. 4 (July-August): 379-384.

Eyde, Lorraine D., 1973. The Status of Women in State and Local Government. Public Personnel Management (MayJune): 205-211.

Ferguson, Kathy E., 1984. The Feminist Case Against Bureaucracy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Franzway, Suzanne, Dianne Court, and R. W. Connell, eds., 1989. Staking a Claim: Feminism, Bureaucracy, and the State. Sydney, Australia: Allen and Unwin.

Gallas, Nesta M., ed., 1976. "A Symposium: Women in Public Administration". Public Administration Review, vol. 36, no. 4 (July-August): 347-389.

Guy, Mary E., ed., 1992. Women and Men of the States: Public Administrators at the State Level. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.

Hall, Mary M., and Rita Mae Kelly, eds., 1989. Gender, Bureaucracy, and Democracy: Careers and Equal Opportunity in the Public Sector. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

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International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2
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