AuthorMoldovan, Octavian
  1. Introduction

    Female employees face multiple discriminatory phenomena resulting in (at least) two different forms of gender discrimination: (a) horizontal discrimination (e.g.: women and men are treated differently [1] at the same hierarchical level, some sectors or industries tend to be predominantly male or female) and (b) vertical discrimination (e.g.: the underrepresentation of women in upper management, the overrepresentation of women in precarious managerial positions, the greater opportunities for promotion enjoyed by men in female dominated professions). However, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 2008), the low level of representation of women in management positions, both in the public and private sectors, represents an inefficient use of human capital. Gender discrimination phenomena prevent both current and future generations from achieving their full potential, thus hindering socio-economic sustainable development (United Nations, 2014, p. 26).

    This exploratory paper focuses on two interconnected gender phenomena which can manifest in the public sphere, namely the glass ceiling (the underrepresentation of female in upper managerial/leadership positions in public administration) and horizontal segregation (the fact that males and females tend to dominate different fields/ sectors in the public sphere), trying to connect these phenomena with the concept of representative bureaucracy in Romanian central public administration institutions. After a brief inquiry into the causes of female discrimination (section 2), the paper will focus on the situation of female public sector decision makers, while also highlighting some of the benefits brought by equal participation (in section 3). Sections 4 and 5 are dedicated to methodological issues, data analysis and discussions, and the last section will present the conclusions of this research as well as some public policy recommendations for ensuring a representative bureaucracy.

  2. Societal values, individual attitudes and female discrimination

    Most gender discrimination phenomena (in the labor force in general and management/leadership in particular) can be explained by multiple contextual, personal, organizational and systemic factors which can be reduced to two main categories: societal values and individual attitudes. The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (undated, pp. 7-9) offers as potential explanations for the underrepresentation of women in managerial positions: (a) women, unlike men, are most often required to balance both work and family demands, thus putting a strain on their professional life, and (b) working in male dominated industries restricts the hierarchical advancement perspectives of females due to male prejudices. On a similar note, Palmer and Simon argue that cultural and societal attitudes (especially regarding housework and childcare) are important obstacles for women trying to break the (political) glass ceiling (2008, p. 221), while Williams posits that the 'maternal barrier' (an umbrella term for the family obligations of women, often referring to childbearing and childcare, house chores, spouse care) is the most significant factor which hinders the ideal of a gender equal society (2003, pp. 1-14); furthermore, the fact that women are a priori assumed to have more family and child related obligations than men is in itself a societal value than can be considered a prejudice/stereotype. Norris and Ingle-hart also point out that culture can be an obstacle for equal representation, but they also argue that 'culture drives the success of women in elected office' (2001, p. 135); there is however a positive aspect, as attitudes toward females in public leadership roles can become more egalitarian (less biased) with time through a gradual process of demographic turnover (2001, p. 136).

    The OECD goes beyond the idea of societal barriers and values by drawing attention that these are often institutionalized, under the form of discriminatory social institutions defined as 'formal and informal laws, social norms and practices that restrict or exclude women and consequently curtail their access to rights, justice, resources and empowerment opportunities' (OECD, 2014, p. 6). In this line of thought, although some social institutions can lead to beneficial social transformations and empower women, 'discriminatory social institutions have a domino effect on a woman's whole life cycle'; thus laws and public policies should move beyond their gender neutral phase and be designed and implemented with special consideration for gender issues and equality (OECD, 2014, p. 7).

    Stoker, Van der Velde and Lammers (2012, pp. 31-42) analyze the organizational context and argue that the generally accepted stereotype of a manager is masculine, and that most employees prefer a man manager/leader; a similar view is expressed by Kolb as: he argues that 'leadership continues to be described in stereotypically masculine terms' (1999, p. 305). As a result, women's advancement into managerial/ leadership positions is often interrupted or limited by the discrepancies perceived between women's characteristics and the characteristics (usually men's characteristics) traditionally correlated with managerial success (Terborg and Ilgen, 1975, pp. 352-376; Baroudi and Truman, 1992, pp. 4-5; Latu et al., 2011). Women are generally perceived as being empathic, intuitive, lacking aggression, emotional, dependent, oriented towards group, not competitive, less ambitious, devoid of entrepreneurial spirit and as lacking the desire to be in a leadership position; by associating feminine characteristics with women and masculine characteristics with men (and successful leaders), women's chances to advance on the organizational ladder are diminished. Due to the existence of surface/alleged differences (incongruities) between female gender roles and leadership roles, women are less favorably perceived as potential occupants of leadership positions when compared to male counterparts (Eagly and Karau, 2002, p. 573).

    Furthermore, once females assume a leadership role that entails masculine values (act as the type of leaders they are expected to be) they tend to be evaluated in a negative way (Eagly and Karau, 2002), being often considered too aggressive or authoritarian. Okimoto and Brescoll highlight similar disparities as power seeking behaviors (real or perceived) manifested by women in the political sphere were negatively sanctioned by potential electors (due to moral-emotional reactions), while the same behaviors manifested by males were not (2010). On the other hand, in practice, males and females often adopt different leadership styles; during a meta-analysis of existing research on male and female leadership styles, Eagly and Johnson found evidence that 'women tended to adopt a more democratic or participative style and a less autocratic or directive style than did men' (1990, p. 223). Other differences relate to how male and female managers use their time: for example, female public administration managers tend to spend less time with internal management activities and networking relationships than their male counterparts (Jacobson, Kelleher Palus and Bowling, 2010, pp. 491-499). Tibus (2010, pp. 743-757) also argues that female business owners are more likely to adopt transformational leadership as opposed to the transactional one favored by men. The adoption of transformational leadership can be further connected with public administration performance (Hintea, 2015), thus an argument could be made that the inclusion of more females in public sector decision-making positions might increase institutional performance.

    Masterful (agentic) women are frowned upon during the selection process (Phelan, Moss-Racusin and Rudman, 2008) as evaluators seem to change hiring criteria away from competence and motivation (where these types of women are positively evaluated) to criteria were they are under-evaluated (such as social skills [2]). Within groups, members seem to favor men when selecting or evaluating leaders even if the behaviors of those selected or evaluated (males and females) are similar (Forsyth, Heiney and Wright, 1997, p. 98). According to the same authors 'these biases result from discrepancies between individuals' stereotypes about women and their implicit prototypes of leaders' (Forsyth, Heiney and Wright, 1997, p. 98) and empirical evidence proved that cognitive biases and individual expectations have an effect on the reactions and attitudes of followers.

    Rudman and Kilianski distinguish between two types of attitudes toward female authority: implicit ones (men are usually connected with high authority and women with low authority) and explicit ones; even if women manifest less explicit forms of prejudice toward female authority than men, the implicit attitudes of the two genders are similarly negative (2000, p. 1315). Beside the gender of employees, attitudes toward females in decision making positions can also differ according to occupational traits, previous experiences (with female leaders) and age; Arkorful, Doe and Agyemang found evidence that employees from private organizations, employees with previous negative interactions with female managers, male employees and older employees express negative attitudes (are less open) to female superiors than employees from public organizations, employees with previous positive interactions with female managers, female employees and younger employees (2014, p. 241). More positive attitudes regarding female leaders were connected with general empathy...

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