Representation and Inclusion in Public Organizations: Evidence from the U.K. Civil Service

Date01 March 2015
Published date01 March 2015
Rhys Andrews is professor of public
management at Cardiff Business School. His
research focuses on the management and
performance of public organizations. He is
coauthor of Strategic Management and
Public Service Performance (Palgrave,
2011) and Public Service Eff‌i ciency:
Reframing the Debate (Routledge,
Rachel Ashworth is a reader in public
services management at Cardiff Business
School. Her research focuses on organiza-
tional and institutional change, scrutiny and
accountability in public services, equality,
and diversity and public service perform-
ance. She is coeditor of Public Service
Improvement: Theories and Evidence
(Oxford University Press, 2010).
Representation and Inclusion in Public Organizations: Evidence from the U.K. Civil Service 279
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 75, Iss. 2, pp. 279–288. © 2014 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12308.
Rhys Andrews
Rachel Ashworth
Cardiff University, United Kingdom
Abstract: eories of workforce diversity in the public sector assume that organizations that are more representative
of the population they serve are more likely to foster an inclusive work climate in which individuals from dif‌f erent
sections of society can thrive.  e authors examine this assumption by studying whether gender and minority ethnic
representativeness are related to perceptions of inclusiveness and the experience of discrimination and bullying within
U.K. civil service organizations. Findings suggest that gender representativeness and minority ethnic representativeness
are both associated with an inclusive work climate, with each aspect of representativeness positively related to higher
perceptions of inclusion and lower levels of discrimination and bullying.  e theoretical and practical implications of
the f‌i ndings are discussed.
Practitioner Points
• Ef‌f orts to improve the recruitment of female and minority ethnic staf‌f can provide wider organizational
benef‌i ts.
Public service organizations that more closely resemble the population they serve are perceived by their
employees to be more inclusive environments in which to work.
Employees in more representative organizations experience lower levels of discrimination and lower levels of
An inclusive workplace is more dif‌f‌i cult to achieve when an organization is downsizing or experiencing a
recruitment freeze.
• Public managers are likely to face particular challenges in fostering and maintaining an inclusive climate in a
context of austerity-driven budget cuts.
worth of individuals” (Selden and Selden 2001, 323),
thereby representing the plurality of social values that
is characteristic of a mature multicultural democracy.
is viewpoint implies that representativeness may
be a key factor in determining the extent to which
employees feel included within the organizations in
which they work.
e growth of academic and practitioner interest in
the issues of representation and workforce diversity
has prompted a signif‌i cant increase in the scholarly
application of theories of representative bureaucracy
(Peters, Schröter, and Von Maravic 2012). Many
of these studies have established that public service
organizations are becoming increasingly diverse and
representative (e.g., Andrews and Ashworth 2013;
Selden 2006), and also that under certain circum-
stances, bureaucrats are able to actively represent
the interests of nondominant groups within society
(Sowa and Selden 2003). However, to date, the
relationship between the representation of women
and ethnic minorities in public organizations and
Representation and Inclusion in Public Organizations:
Evidence from the U.K. Civil Service
Governments worldwide are increasingly
concerned that public service organiza-
tions be suf‌f‌i ciently representative of the
populations that they serve (Pitts and Wise 2010).
Within developed countries, in particular, sweeping
demographic changes brought about by immigration
and falling birth rates, in combination with chang-
ing social attitudes, have prompted a search for new
ways to cultivate and manage diversity within public
sector organizations. Government responses to this
policy dilemma of‌f er contrasting yet complementary
perspectives on the benef‌i ts of more representative
public organizations. On the one hand, by becoming
more like the citizenry, the bureaucracy can become
more responsive to, and adept at, shaping the needs
and demands of the population. From this point
of view, representativeness is a precondition for the
achievement of social policy goals (e.g., by ensuring
better educational and health outcomes for all sec-
tions of society). On the other hand, it is argued that
representative public organizations per se embody the
commitment to “a natural inclusion and acceptance of

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