Research Themes

Measuring Gender Equality in Public Administration Leadership

At present, we cannot fully understand the causes and consequences of gender inequalities in public administration because we lack valid, reliable, and accessible global data. Governments around the world are increasingly reporting on gender gaps in particular sectors and levels of public administration, but these data need to be collected and systematized to render them comparable across countries. Through our research, we seek to collect available data and statistics on women's representation and leadership in public administrations worldwide and to work towards the standardization of data and statistics to generate more comparable indicators of women’s inclusion in decision-making in public administration. The efforts are captured in our Gender Parity in Civil Service (Gen-PaCS) Dataset and our working paper on measurement and data harmonization.

Glass Ceilings and Glass Walls

Our research seeks to understand glass ceilings -- the barriers that prevent women’s from reaching management and leadership positions in public administration. In addition to our global efforts to collect and standardize indicators of women's inclusion in public administration decision-making, we have investigated the forces that limit gender equality through country case studies. Our research asks questions such as:

  • In Colombia, how does the geography of armed conflict and peace-making shape women's access to municipal leadership?
  • In Denmark, does leadership training enhance or reduce gender gaps in upper-level public sector management?
  • In Japan, how have recruitment and promotion practices shaped gender inequalities in public administration?
  • In South Africa, how do race, language, and region help us understand gender gaps in public sector leadership?

Gender inequalities in public administration also take the form of glass walls -- where women are concentrated into certain sectors or policy areas. In many countries, ministries and departments responsible for social welfare tend to be well-staffed by women, whereas the most powerful and prestigious positions in the central government are still dominated by men. We research the contours of glass walls globally. Our work also asks to what extent women are included in government decisions to: 1) promote peace and reconciliation; 2) combat climate change and mitigate its impacts; and 3) protect the health and safety of their populations.

Gender, Intersectionality, and Inclusive Public Institutions

Our work serves to promote inclusive public institutions, where gender does not limit one's rights, opportunities, voice, or access to resources. But we do not study gender in isolation from other drivers of inequality. Fundamental to our research is the understanding that other identities and social systems -- for example, race, ethnicity, language, class, sexuality, (dis)ability, and age -- intersect with gender to shape outcomes and experiences. For example, we have researched:

  • How does progress towards gender parity in public administration vary by age?
  • How does gender intersect with race, ethnicity, and language to shape the salaries of public managers?
  • How do we measure the inclusiveness of institutions with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity?

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Our research aligns with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, a set of 17 global goals that call on all countries to work together to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people live in peace and prosperity. Our work contributes to advancing SDG 5 (to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) and SDG 16 (to promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies).

Most directly, GIRL supports the efforts of the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre to monitor compliance with SDG Indicator 16.7.1b, which measures the extent to which a country's public institutions proportionally represent a country's population. Researchers at GIRL support SDG 16.7.1b reporting through technical support to specific countries, advice on improvements to data management, and inputs into guidance on SDG reporting.