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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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Chapter 3 The Icelandic Local Government System



The Republic of Iceland is by far the smallest of the five Nordic states with population of roughly 357000 in 2019. Although geographically quite large at 103000 km2, residential areas are clustered mostly in the capital city region of Reykjavík, which with its surrounding suburbs accounts for around 64 percent of the population, while a radius of 100 km from the Reykjavík city center comprises 81 percent of the Icelandic population (Statistics Iceland 2019). The remaining population is scattered around the country mostly on the coastline in small villages and rural areas, leaving the middle of the country uninhabited. Therefore, population size of municipalities varies greatly from around 40 inhabitants in the smallest municipalities to 129000 in Reykjavík city. In 2019, the average population size of municipalities was 4958 with a median population size of around 800 (Statistics Iceland 2019). Nevertheless, the local government is organized on one tier with 72 municipalities, and their existence is protected by the 78th article of the Icelandic constitution, however without independent power to levy taxes. Since it was a part of the Danish Kingdom from the 14th century until well into the 20th century, the modern governmental institutional design has notable Danish trademarks. This is especially prominent in the design of the subnational level. The foundation of the local government system has remained mostly intact since the ←45 | 46→early 1870s; it is a monistic (Wollmann 2004), council-committee system (Mouritzen and Svara 2002), with...

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