Academic journal article Public Administration Review

Gender and Lowi's Thesis: Implications for Career Advancement

Academic journal article Public Administration Review

Gender and Lowi's Thesis: Implications for Career Advancement

Article excerpt

Representative bureaucracy and female parity at all levels in public organizations are attainable yet unrealized goals. Many years have elapsed since the passage of Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action legislation, yet women continue to be underrepresented at the top of the organizational hierarchy. Frederickson's (1990) compound theory of social equity delineates organizational equality into block and segmented. Block equality is a holistic approach to the concept of equality that views overall representational concerns among groups within an organization. Segmented equality views representation at various levels within the organization. Upper-level management positions in state governments are one such level, or segment. Although block equality has been achieved, segmented equality remains elusive. Women continue to be compressed into the lower levels of public agencies, and concentrated into traditionally defined "female-type" occupations; in other words, under glass ceilings and within glass walls.

Although women fill 46 percent of federal white-collar jobs, they hold only 15 percent of GM-13 to GM-15 positions Lewis, 1990). At the top of the federal government hierarchy, women hold only 12 percent of the Senior Executive Service positions (U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 1992).

Women fare somewhat better at the state government level. According to a recent study by Bullard and Wright (1993), 20 percent of executives in state governments are women. An ongoing empirical study organized by Kelly addresses a number of issues related to the integration of women into the managerial ranks of state government administrations (Kelly et al, 1991). To date, the study has been undertaken in seven states (Arizona, Texas, California, Alabama, Wisconsin, Utah, and Florida). The proportion of women in the upper-management levels of these seven state governments ranges from 13 percent in the Arizona civil service, to 25 percent in Texas.

In reviewing the current literature, a common theme emerges; a search for responses to the question, What variables should we manipulate to improve the status of women in public administration? Variables may be clustered into three categories: human capital variables, sociopsychological variables, and systemic variables (Newman, 1993).

Human capital barriers are identified as insufficient education, dysfunctional choices, domestic constraints, limited financial resources, and insufficient experience. Social psychological barriers include sex-role socialization, sex-role stereotypes/role prejudice, negative perceptions of women's capacity for managing, questionable motivation, and limiting self-concepts. Systemic barriers manifest themselves as sex segregation in the labor force, differential career ladder opportunities, sex segregation of domestic labor, limited access to professional training, limited access to informal networks, lack of mentors, veterans preference, lack of power, sexual harassment, perceived lack of compatibility, and the lack of female role models for women.

In each category, the unit of analysis is the individual. Manipulation of these variables results in prescriptive policies aimed at lowering or removing these barriers. This approach is valid, yet incomplete. Using the nature of organizations as the unit of analysis allows us to view the problem through a different lens. In the process, a more fundamental question arises. Are all organizations created equal? In other words, do opportunity structures differ according to an agency's mission?

Are some agencies more conducive to women's career advancement than others? In seeking a response to these questions, I examined the nature of organizations from a theoretical standpoint. A case study of the state of Florida Senior Management Service executives underscores the implications of theory in practice in terms of work experiences and structures of opportunity. …

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