Closing the Gap: How Mayors’ Individual Attributes Affect Gender Wage Disparities in Local Bureaucracies

AuthorKendall D. Funk,Angel Luis Molina
Published date01 September 2022
Date01 September 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Review of Public Personnel Administration
2022, Vol. 42(3) 553 –573
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734371X211002610
Closing the Gap: How Mayors’
Individual Attributes Affect
Gender Wage Disparities in
Local Bureaucracies
Kendall D. Funk1 and Angel Luis Molina, Jr.2
Gender inequities in public organizations manifest in various forms, including gaps
in leadership roles and compensation. Increasing women’s representation in elected
offices may reduce gender inequities in the public sector. This study examines whether
women’s representation in local elected offices reduces gender wage disparities
among men and women serving in Brazilian municipal executive bureaucracies. The
findings suggest that municipalities with women mayors and larger proportions of
women on the city council have smaller gender wage gaps in the municipal executive
bureaucracy than those with men mayors and few women councilors. Furthermore,
statistical models that account for diversity among men and women mayors in terms
of their age, education, and partisanship suggest that even men mayors that likely
hold progressive attitudes do not reduce gender disparities to the same degree
as most women mayors. These findings underscore the importance of women’s
representation for reducing gender inequities in the public sector.
women’s representation, local governments, representative bureaucracy, gender pay
equity, comparative public administration
Representation in public sector governance is an important vehicle for the reduction of
gendered disparities. Contemporary research finds that the representation of women in
elected leadership and among unelected personnel is associated with significant
1School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ, USA
2School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ, USA
Corresponding Author:
Angel Luis Molina, Jr., Assistant Professor School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University,
411 N. Central Avenue, Suite 400, Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA.
1002610ROPXXX10.1177/0734371X211002610Review of Public Personnel AdministrationFunk and Molina
554 Review of Public Personnel Administration 42(3)
improvements in outcomes for women in general (Keiser et al., 2002; Meier &
Nicholson-Crotty, 2006; Wilkins & Keiser, 2006). However, while promoting greater
levels of representation can ameliorate many forms of gender inequity, women remain
underrepresented in influential public sector positions, whether they are elected,
administrative, or street-level roles (DeHart-Davis et al., 2020; Holman, 2017; Nelson
& Piatak, 2019). In addition, women are more likely than men to experience various
forms of discrimination in the workplace, including unequal expectations in social
roles and disparate levels of pay (Alkadry & Tower, 2006; Feeney & Stritch, 2019).
Adding further complexity to this picture is the reality that individuals grouped into
broad social categories such as gender are themselves diverse; heterogeneity exists
among group members, creating overlapping systems of discrimination and disadvan-
tage for those in doubly marginalized groups (Crenshaw, 1991). In the case of women,
differences in individual attributes and preferences, along with the presence of other
salient identities, such as social class, religion, race, or political affiliation, increase the
complexity of the relationship between women’s numeric representation and the rep-
resentation of all women’s interests (Feeney & Camarena, 2021; Minta & Brown,
2014; Reese, 2019). Moreover, women within an organization are not the only actors
capable of representing the interests of female personnel, as men can also choose to act
in the interests of women for various reasons (Nugent, 2019; Valdini, 2019).
In this study, we examine the relationship between women’s representation and
gender disparities in public sector wages. Rather than focus exclusively on gender
inequity within a single tier of a governance system, we offer a broader picture of
representation’s impact by analyzing whether women’s representation in elected lead-
ership leads to smaller gender wage disparities for women working within the bureau-
cracy. There are reasons to expect that women elected officials will be more likely to
recognize gender disparities within in their organizational setting, and more inclined
to ameliorate these disparities due to their identification as members of this histori-
cally marginalized group (Holman, 2017). However, evidence also indicates that pas-
sive representation in government agencies does not always produce outcomes that
reflect strong levels of identification among members of the same group (Wilkins &
Williams, 2008, 2009).
In order to better account for the complex nature of representation and organiza-
tional outcomes, we also analyze how the heterogeneity of individual attributes among
women and men in elected leadership affects the gender wage gap. This allows us to
examine not only the influence of gender, but also whether leaders with certain attri-
butes are more likely to act in the interests of women working within their broader
organizational setting. By accounting for the potential significance of diverse indi-
vidual attributes, our analytic approach engages with an important dimension of equity
and representation within the workplace. Such attributes are key to understanding the
conditions under which passive representation leads to a substantive impact within
public agencies.
Brazilian local governments serve as the empirical setting of our study. As Bishu
and Kennedy (2020) highlight, research on representation in government organiza-
tions is concentrated within a handful of policy domains and largely within the context

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