Big Questions Surrounding Gender Equity Blog

Big Questions Surrounding Gender Equity in Academia and the Field of Public Administration

male and female signage on wall
by Dr. Maria J. D’Agostino and Dr. Nicole M. Elias:

During the 2017-2018 academic year, sex and gender dynamics became a primary focus across disciplines. For example, central topics included: under representation of women in academic leadership and scholarship, gendered content within top journals and editorial board membership, and the #MeToo movement prompting sexual harassment and assault within academia and campus settings to come to light.

This interest in gender taking form underscores the need for MPA curricula to promote gender competency for faculty, students, and future practitioners alike. Organizations such as Women in the Public Sector at John Jay College, ASPA’s Section for Women in Public Administration, and Academic Women in Public Administration have taken steps to further understanding, collaboration, and fruitful projects that promote greater gender equity in the field of public administration.

As we are start our summer projects, and catch up on all our reading and writing,  we should take time to pause, reflect, and engage in discussion on recent research and women’s roles that focus on women in academia and public administration. Here, we highlight recent scholarship that embodies these critical issues for women. We invite reflection, responses, and ongoing dialogue considering next steps for addressing these challenges and proposing new ways of thinking and taking action.   

Women in leadership are underrepresented across all fields, including academia. The need for more women in top management roles is discussed as part of the #MeToo movement to counter the existing power imbalances in organizations. In their 2018 Journal of Public Affairs Education article, Gender and the Role of Directors of Public Administration and Policy Programs Stabile, Terman and Kuerbitz, Stabile, Terman & Kuerbitz assess gender as it relates to director positions in Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Public Policy (MPP) programs. They explore whether women are more likely than men to serve as MPA and MPP program directors and whether men and women report different experiences in the role, such as length of service, rewards and burdens, and possible constraints on research and teaching and thus promotion potential. They found that some gendered characterizations of women’s leadership persist; yet, men and women program directors typically experience similar struggles in balancing their administrative roles with the demands of teaching and research, both of which are likely to suffer during their service. The recent research by Beaty and Davis (2018) Gender Disparity in Professional City Management: Making the Case for Enhancing Leadership Curriculum,  highlights the paucity of women in senior management positions even though there in no lack of women with professional training. They call for the teaching of public administration to reflect it’s changing world by including specific areas of inquiry in the MPA curriculum including why more women do not attain senior executive positions. They conclude that professional training programs can better prepare women for the new world of public administration by making gender more visible within the leadership curriculum.  There is no doubt that the MPA curriculum should highlight sex/gender issues. However, this presents us with another fundamental challenge articulated by Meghan Hatch in (2018), Quiet Voices: misalignment of the three c’s in public administration curriculum, Here, Hatch asks how we achieve greater equity in academia when women write less than 20% of required readings. As Gina Scutelnicu and Hillary J. Knepper emphasize in A Tale of Two Journals: Women’s Representation in Public Administration Scholarship, women publish less than men as solo, lead, and top 10 authors in leading public administration journals.  Meghan Hatch maintains that although scholars preach congruence between “the three C’s” (concepts, context, and content) of public administration in order to keep the field relevant, the content and concepts taught in the MPA classroom do not match the context in the field and provides strategies to address the problem. Beyond addressing these gender imbalances in the classroom,  Feeney et. al. (2018) focus on a root cause of this problem in Power in Editorial Positions: A Feminist Critique of Public Administration. They maintain that women’s representation as journal editors and editorial boards is key to shaping the direction of research in the field because editors are the gatekeepers of what will be published.

Using this recent scholarship as a point of departure, we ask authors, journal editors and board members, those in service leadership roles, and members of academia interested in the topics of representation of women, gendered curriculum content and pedagogy, sexual harassment and assault, and other salient topics to contribute to this discussion.

The responses from authors, journal editors and board members, and leaders in this area of scholarship will be posted.  We, also, would like to invite anyone whom would like to contribute to, please email their contribution to the Women in the Public Sector email account: or  

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