Research Briefs from the UNC School of Government

  1. Supportive supervisors are the key to federal government women receiving plum assignments and promotions. Supportive supervisors make less of a professional difference for men working in federal government. The implication? Local government supervisors need to be trained in being supportive; doing so will open pathways to success for women to lead. Source: Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling: Social Capital Matters for Women’s Career Success?Associate Professor Sungjoo Choi of Kyung Hee University in Seoul, South Korea
  2. Local government managers who are women are more likely to reach out to citizens for input, based on a survey of #localgov managers (Fox and Schummann 1999) This suggests that hiring bodies who care about community involvement should make sure that applicant pools for managerial positions are gender balanced.
  3. Local government jobs can be classified as Mom Work vs. Dad Work, which “overlooks the emotive component of jobs, and creates pay inequity and glass walls”, says Mary E. Guy, professor of the University of Colorado-Denver
  4. Women make up only 20 percent of larger-city mayors (Holman 2017)
  5. Female mayors in Brazil create more gender-neutral bureaucracies, including higher wages for women (Funk, Silva and Escobar-Lemmon 2017)
  6. Police forces with more women officers also have higher sexual assault reports and arrests (Meier and Nicholson-Crotty 2006)
  7. Having a female manager reduces the effect of emotional labor (feeling one emotion, projecting another) on workplace stress, according to a study of South Korean civil servants.
  8. Family-friendly policies benefit men and women differently. A national study of state agency employees suggests that male employees who use on-site childcare, make pre-tax child care payments, use flextime, and perceive generous maternity leave report higher work-life balance. For female employees, only the use of flextime and pre-tax childcare savings are associated with higher work-life balance. One implication? Flextime is key to gender-inclusive organizations and benefits both women and men.
  9. Law enforcement agencies are not actively recruiting job candidates, according to a survey of recent federal law enforcement officer graduates. The reluctance to actively recruit may contribute to the egregious lack of gender diversity in law enforcement at the federal level.

UNC Near the Top Research

The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) has funded a UNC-School of Government research project entitled Near the Top: Understanding Gender Imbalance in Local Government Management. The project will seek to understand the factors contributing to racial and gender underrepresentation in local government management.  Researchers from six universities (UNC included) will conduct interviews, resume analysis and a survey of local government managers and assistant managers across the country. ELGL and the League of Women in Government are partners in the research. If you are interested in participating in the research, please contact principal investigator Leisha DeHart-Davis at

Data Snippets from the upcoming publication Understanding Gender Imbalance in Public Service Leadership: An analysis of county manager resumes suggest that women pursue more traditional job paths in local government, working their way up within a few organizations. Men, by contrast, are more likely to have come from outside local government, particularly the private sector.