American University
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Influencing policy at the top of the federal bureaucracy: Behavior, attitudes and gender in the Senior Executive Service

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posted on 2023-09-06, 02:58 authored by Julie Anne Dolan

This dissertation, using an original survey instrument administered to a random sample of 500 male and 500 female Senior Executive Service (SES) employees, examines the differences in responsibilities and attitudes of top-ranking federal career executives. First, I demonstrate that male and female SES members have sufficient discretion to influence policymaking in their organizations. Sample respondents indicate how frequently they perform various activities and how much power these activities give them within their agencies. Senior Executive Service members are clearly involved in many stages of policy formulation and implementation, have substantial contact with executive branch colleagues in other agencies and departments (and noticeably less contact with members of Congress, congressional staff, OMB and other White House staff), and Meld influence over budgetary and personnel matters within their organizations. Further, and contrary to expectations, women in the SES exhibit responsibility levels and perceived powers at least as high as men. Second, I investigate whether women in top bureaucratic positions provide representation for women in the American public. Overall, the evidence suggests that senior executive women are likely to produce policy which better reflects the needs and interests of women in the population. They show more support for women's issues such as family leave, affirmative action, child care, and women's health. In addition, differences in the spending priorities of SES men and women in my survey reflect differences in the priorities of men and women in the general public, as shown in the 1992 and 1994 American National Election Studies. These findings suggest that federal policy should better reflect women's distinct interests and priorities with greater numbers of women in elite administrative positions in the federal government. These findings also suggest additional avenues for future research. The scholarly inquiry into SES members' job responsibilities should stimulate more detailed research into individual administrative behavior and how these career executives contribute to federal policy-making and the attitudinal findings suggest further research on elite women's distinct contributions to federal governance.







Ph.D. American University 1997.


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