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Gender in Organizations

The Icelandic Female Council Manager

Eva Marín Hlynsdóttir

The importance of local authorities in modern states continues to grow regarding service delivery and policy-making. As the role of local authorities has grown, so has the prestige and importance of the top manager positions at the local level. Traditionally, women’s advancement into these top-echelon positions has been much slower than into positions at the lower levels of local government. So how and when do women get hired into these positions? Is their career advancement similar to that of their male peers, or are there notable differences between the sexes? And are women really only hired as change agents during times of crisis? The author provides answers to these questions and more by focusing on the career advancement of Icelandic female council managers. The book draws from both comparative resources and a single case study on Iceland and provides comprehensive information on the recruitment of women into the position of council manager from the perspective of local government studies, organizational studies and gender studies. The book will help scholars, students and practitioners interested in exploring the subtle hindrances facing women’s advancement into top-echelon positions in organizations.

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of the council-manager form was highly successful, and the council-manager form is now an important and well-known feature of U.S. local government, with a large majority of U.S. cities using this form of government (Choi, Feiock, and Bae 2013). Furthermore, variations of the council-manager form have been implemented in several other countries around the world.

The Icelandic local political system is based on a monistic committee-council system where the local council is the main power holder. Although the executive committee has become de facto the most powerful committee, the formal power still lies within the local council. Individual leaders, such as council leaders or mayors, have no formal power, though they may have great informal power. The top leadership position is occupied by a chief executive. The chief executive is hired by the council at the beginning of each election term on contractual terms (Hlynsdóttir 2016). There are three sub-types falling under the term “chief executive.” The first type, and the focus of this book, is the position of the council manager. This type of chief executive is often referred to as “professional” in contrast to the second type of administrative leader, the so-called political type of chief executive.

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