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Cracked Ceilings, Firmer Floors, and Weakening Walls: Trends and Patterns in Gender Representation among Executives Leading American State Agencies, 1970–2000

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Trends of female access to and presence in responsible governmental positions have gained substantial attention. The research reported here assesses and seeks convergence on several issues associated with gender representation. It extends the research by focusing on top executive posts in American state governments. In particular, the presence of women agency heads in all 50 states is examined from 1970 through 2000 using the lenses of passive representativeness and active representation. The authors find, first, that women face fewer blockages in securing top posts—the glass ceilings are cracking. Second, women’s access to peak executive positions springs from more solid educational, career, and organizational foundations or “floors.” Third, lateral career movements are penetrating the “walls” surrounding traditionally male-dominated agency types. The essay concludes with a framework for understanding relationships involving passive representativeness, active representation, and representative results. That framework assists in shifting attention toward the consequences of both passive and active representation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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