Glass Walls and Glass Ceilings: Women's Representation in State and Municipal Bureaucracies

Glass Walls and Glass Ceilings: Women's Representation in State and Municipal Bureaucracies

Glass Walls and Glass Ceilings: Women's Representation in State and Municipal Bureaucracies

Glass Walls and Glass Ceilings: Women's Representation in State and Municipal Bureaucracies

Synopsis

Reid, Kerr, and Miller seek to redress the lack of systematic, generalizable research on women's representation in state and municipal bureaucracies by focusing specifically on the representation of female managers in high-level policy and decision-making positions in their agencies or departments. Their primary interest is in examining the distribution of women and men in state and municipal administrative and professional positions by agency and over time (from 1987 through 1997) in order to determine if, first, agency missions are associated with glass walls and glass ceilings, and, second, whether, relative to white women, African American women and Latinas have made progress in laying claim to a greater share of managerial positions in public-sector agencies.

Their analysis reveals a richly textured and complicated set of factors and interrelationships that vary widely across different policy areas, agency contexts, and levels of government. They show continued patterns of underrepresentation in agencies with regulatory and distributive policy commitments while showing some improvements in those agencies that tend to be traditionally populated by women, health, welfare, and social services, for example.

Excerpt

In one jurisdiction an emergency medical services (EMS) supervisor suggested that an ems employee have an abortion to keep her job; employment offers from the same jurisdiction’s fire chief required as a condition of employment that women take a pregnancy test prior to appointment (Garza, 2001). An African American female employed by a state government hospital complained that she was passed over for promotion—and the job given to a light-skinned male—because of retaliation for an earlier complaint that she had filed against her employer (Velliquette 2002). Some blame events such as these on personalities, some on the system and still others on economic factors. But to women who are aware of these incidents a primary consideration is that people who looked and acted like them were not well represented in these agencies. While many other scholarly works have focused on the legitimate concerns of employment economics (labor pool availability, equal compensation, and so on), our focus is on the representation of women in public bureaucracies, bureaucracies that are responsible for implementing and making public policy. For public bureaucracies, the issue of representation is critical for the democratic legitimacy of these public agencies in the eyes of their various constituent groups.

As more women than ever complete college degrees and enter the workforce, and as women begin to occupy an increasing percentage of middleand upper-level management positions in all workforce settings, questions arise as to why a significant segment of highly skilled female professionals and administrators do not seem to be able to advance into the highest and . . .

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