Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration

First Advisor's Name

Dr. Mohamad Alkadry

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Dr. Meredith Newman

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Dr. Shaoming Cheng

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dr. Susannah Ali

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Dr. Vrushali Patil

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Gender, Authority, Career Choice, Local Government, Chief Administrative Officers, Public Managers, Equal Employment Opportunity

Date of Defense



In 2016, women represented 16.6% of all Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) in local governments across the United States. Previous studies have investigated gender disparities in managerial representation, which is explained by the glass ceiling phenomenon; however, little is known about whether the women that occupy these male dominated positions have the similar levels of responsibilities as their male counterparts. Thus, the purpose of this dissertation is to understand if gender disparities in levels of work authority manifest as a new form of the glass ceiling. Work authority in this study is operationalized as CAOs’ sanctioning authority (control over personnel operations) and decision-making authority (control over formal operations). Using a mixed methods research design, this investigation is implemented in two phases. The first phase employs Ordinary Least Square (OLS) regression to explore the relationship between CAOs’ gender and CAOs’ level of work authority as well as the relationship between CAOs’ levels of work authority and annual pay. In the second phase, using a qualitative research method, I conduct an in-depth investigation of similarities and differences in the career paths of CAOs and the factors that shape their career-related decisions.

This research has five main findings. First, female CAOs do not have similar level of sanctioning authority as their male counterparts. Second, disparities in level of sanctioning authority yield economic inequality among CAOs. Third, male and female CAOs take different career paths. Last, female CAOs perform dual roles—professional and personal—whereas most male CAOs are less burdened with household responsibilities in their personal lives. Last, for female CAOs with family responsibilities, their career paths are significantly fashioned by the presence of institutional and social support networks.

Findings inform policy makers and public management practices. It informs that gender-based disparities in the workforce continually manifest in new forms, creating unequal employment opportunities for men and women in the workforce. Such disparities also continue perpetuating economic inequalities among men and women in the workforce. Also, it informs public management practices of the critical impact that institutional support has on leveling the playing field women to participate in male-dominated careers.




Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).