LeadHERship in the Federal Government
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LeadHERship in the Federal Government: How Women Lead
Women, and especially women of diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds, are underrepresented in federal leadership positions. To understand and solve any barriers resulting in these disparities, it is necessary for researchers and federal agencies to better understand how federal leaders view themselves, as well as how they are viewed by their colleagues, direct reports and supervisors.
Understanding women’s experiences in federal leadership roles, and the barriers and challenges they face, is critical to building a more effective federal workplace that is equipped to meet the needs of the public.
Here we highlight the Partnership for Public Service’s LeadHERship series, which explores these issues in greater depth.
After two years of data collection, we analyzed federal leaders to better understand certain patterns in leadership experience. Specifically, we examined the differences and similarities between how women and men understand and experience their roles as public service leaders, and explored the intersections between race, ethnicity and gender in public service leadership.
In this brief—our first exploration of the data from our 360 tool—we examine federal employees’ leadership experiences based on gender, specifically for men and women serving as leaders at all levels across government.
In this report, we sought to better understand women’s self-confidence in the federal workplace using our 360 assessment data, as well as qualitative data we collected during 13 research interviews and a focus group with women in federal leadership positions. Our data demonstrates that women tend to experience self-doubt and perceive their own performance and leadership skills less favorably than others perceive them. We also found some evidence that women are more reluctant than men to see themselves as confident leaders. We argue that addressing this issue will require structural change and collective action to shift how women are recognized in the workplace.
In this brief, we examine how racial and ethnic identity intersect with gender to affect federal leaders’ workplace experience. Like other research, our analysis supports the need to not just focus on gender when seeking to understand this experience, but to also explore how other social identities—especially race—influence the social perception of women leaders in government
After analyzing two years of the Partnership for Public Service’s 360 Leadership data, along with interviews and a focus group from federal women leaders, we compiled a list of best practices and offer suggestions for how individuals and organizations can support more inclusive leadership. To help make this information actionable, and because a focus of our entire LeadHERship series suggests that an important area of opportunity for improving inclusion and equity exists at the leader level, we conclude each section with some questions for leaders to ask themselves as they work to support their teams, and especially women.