Female Assistant City Managers and Department Directors in Texas Cities: Describing Employment and Work Patterns and How they Compare to Career Aspirations and Work-Related Attitudes
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Purpose: Only 13% of city manager positions in the United States are filled by women, a concerning statistic at a time when the issues of gender equality and equal rights are garnering considerable attention. The purpose of this research is to describe the employment and work patterns characterizing female assistant city managers and department directors in Texas municipalities and describe how these patterns compare to their career aspirations and work-related attitudes. These positions are included in this research because they usually immediately precede the position of city manager. Insight collected from women in these positions of leadership may have important implications for city management and municipal government as a whole.
Method: This study is modeled after Janet Walsh’s 2012 study of the career aspirations and progression of women in law firms. The law profession, similarly to municipal government, is characterized by disproportionate representation of women at the highest firm-level position of partner. Through an electronic survey, this research examines the demographic characteristics and circumstances, employment characteristics and work patterns and arrangements of female assistant city managers and department directors in Texas municipalities. Respondents also answered questions about their work-related attitudes in order to glean some insight into what drives their career aspirations and progression. This research identified 71 female assistant city managers and department directors in Texas municipalities, whose contact information was listed in the Texas City Management Association online membership directory. 37 surveys were completed and returned, yielding a response rate of 52%.
Findings: This research revealed some of the multitude of factors that play a role in the forming of work-related attitudes and career aspirations of female assistant city managers and department directors in Texas municipalities. Insight was gained into the demands encountered by women in these positions, the struggles they face working in a male-dominated field, the problems that arise with trying to balance work and family lives, and their career aspirations. One major takeaway from this research was the importance of mentorship as a way to ensure success as a female in the profession. Many respondents highlighted the importance of both having a mentor at some point in their careers and being a mentor to up-and-coming professionals. Another significant finding of this study was that 59% of respondents had interest in becoming a city manager. Though this is a promising statistic, there are still 41% that do not have interest in becoming a city manager, opening the door to questions of how this relates to the percentage of women in the field that actually become city managers. Finally, and perhaps the most important takeaway from this research is that this group of highly educated and experienced women that are currently serving Texas municipalities have prepared themselves to excel at their current jobs, and many have also prepared themselves to take a city management position in the future.