Poster Paper: Gender and Authority in the Public Sector: The Case of City Managers in the United States

Friday, November 4, 2016
Columbia Ballroom (Washington Hilton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sebawit G. Bishu, Florida International University

The public sector is commended for providing equitable employment opportunities for
individuals typically marginalized in the workforce. Not only that, but it also embraces the
notion of workplace diversity as an asset to be capitalized on. However, most studies on genderbased
inequalities in the workforce have been conducted within private and multi-sector
contexts, hence, lacking much empirical evidence of the public sector’s performance. Past
studies that examine gender-based structural biases in the workforce have also identified hiring
and promotion practices along with access to workplace authority as some of the leading factors
that engender inequalities. These studies have investigated predictors of inequalities at
individual, institutional and societal levels. The literature also reveals that there is little empirical
evidence on how individual decision-making processes including the process of women self—
selecting themselves out of career opportunities as a result of family and non-work related issues
explain persisting inequalities. This study finds particular interest in addressing the above two
gaps in the literature on gender based inequalities in the workforce. It investigates gender
differences in workplace authority within the public sector, particularly by looking at the city
manager population in the United States. In doing so, it first investigates the impact of gender
along with the intersection of gender and race on levels of authority that city managers exercise.
Second, the study conducts a qualitative investigation of how individual decision-making
processes driven by family and non-work related factors influence levels of authority that city
managers exercise.