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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 5 The Profile of Icelandic Council Managers



The most robust research on the career building of council managers is found within the American city manager literature (Watson and Hassett 2004; McCabe et al. 2008; Aguado and Frederickson 2012). In their study on the typical career paths of city managers in large cities in the United States (population over 100,000), Watson and Hassett (2004) identified four distinct types of career patterns: long servers, lateral movers, ladder climbers, and single-city careerists. Each of these groups showed distinctive career patterns. Long servers were individuals who devoted their lives’ work to serving in one city, in many cases serving more than 20 years in the same city. Lateral movers were council managers who moved between cities of similar size; Watson and Hassett identify these individuals as highly driven change agents who, after a certain time in the same position, move on to find other challenges. It is, however, unclear if individuals belonging to the group of lateral movers are building a career within their comfort zone or if they have just never managed to climb the ladder to higher positions. The ladder climbers are, as the name suggests, moving from one position to another, always aiming for a larger city and never staying very long in the same place. Their aim is simply to become managers in one of the largest cities as soon as possible. The final type identified by Watson and Hassett are single-city careerists. This ←73 | 74→type covers individuals...

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