Commentary: The Consequences of Diversity in the Public Service: Will a More Diverse Service Also Be Better and More Efficient?

Published date01 March 2015
Date01 March 2015
Marius Ibsen received his master’s
degree in political science and public
administration in 1974. He worked in the
Danish civil service from 1974 to 1992. In
1992, he was appointed city manager in
a medium-sized city, Gladsaxe. He is now
retired and working on his PhD.
302 Public Administration Review • March | April 2015
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 75, Iss. 2, pp. 302–303. © 2015 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12343.
makes a strong argument in favor of a recruitment
policy aiming for greater diversity.
Opstrup and Villadsen also take the theory of repre-
sentative bureaucracy as their starting point. (Gender)
diversity is supposed to lead to a better understand-
ing of the organizational environment and to inspire
more creative and innovative output because it brings
a wider range of backgrounds and experiences into
decision making. But they add a couple of interesting
hypotheses.  e f‌i rst is that having more women in
top management will bring in managers who have had
to overcome more obstacles than their male colleagues
to get to the top. Maybe they are simply better and
tougher than the rest.  e other hypothesis is that
women’s cognitive style emphasizes harmony, so hav-
ing women as part of a team will make it work better
and achieve better results.
is again leads to the idea that having more women
in top management will improve f‌i nancial perform-
ance, especially in management teams that really work
as a team rather than as a collection of individual
Based on data from Danish municipalities, Opstrup
and Villadsen provide strong evidence that gender
diversity leads to better f‌i nancial performance, larger
surpluses, and smaller overruns, but only if the top
management group shares responsibilities broadly.
Comparing the two articles, one could ask at least two
questions.  e f‌i rst is, does this ring true to a seasoned
practitioner? As far as the Opstrup and Villadsen
article is concerned, the short answer is yes. It has
been my experience that the women who reach top
positions are often extremely well qualif‌i ed both in
intellectual terms and in terms of their ability to make
dif‌f‌i cult decisions.  e Danish public sector has an
abundance of women whose potential in top positions
we have yet to see.  is research might even help a
bit in convincing those who hire managers at the top
level that they should be looking for more diversity,
The articles by Rhys Andrews and Rachel
Ashworth (“Representation and Inclusion
in Public Organizations: Evidence from the
U.K. Civil Service”) and Niels Opstrup and Anders
R. Villadsen (“ e Right Mix? Gender Diversity in
Top Management Teams and Financial Performance”)
both deal with the same issue: the extent and conse-
quences of diversity in the public service. But they do
so in very dif‌f erent ways.
Andrews and Ashworth study ethnic and gender
diversity in the British civil service and its conse-
quences for the quality of the workplace in various
ways. Opstrup and Villadsen study only gender diver-
sity in top management in Danish local government,
and in that sense, their scope is more limited. But the
consequences they elucidate are important external
goals of the organizations they study.
Both articles f‌i nd value in diversity, not only in terms
of social justice but also in terms of making the public
service a better and more ef‌f‌i cient servant of the citi-
zens and taxpayers.
Andrews and Ashworth base their reasoning and
models on the theory of representative bureaucracy,
which argues that government bureaucracies should
ref‌l ect the composition of the general population in
order that policy outcomes might better ref‌l ect citi-
zens’ needs.  ey argue that positive policy outcomes
presuppose an inclusive work environment, and they
hypothesize that diversity will lead to more inclu-
sion.  eir study shows—quite convincingly—that
ethnic and gender diversity make workplaces more
inclusive and lead to lower levels of discrimination
and bullying.  ere is some evidence that this will also
improve performance and productivity, as public sec-
tor workers who feel included and not discriminated
against will provide better services at a lower cost. As
yet, we do not know for sure whether the result will
be the more responsive bureaucracy that the theory of
representative bureaucracy expects. Although we do
not know all of the consequences, certainly the article
e Consequences of Diversity in the Public Service: Will a
More Diverse Service Also Be Better and More Ef‌f‌i cient?
Marius Ibsen

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT