Motivation to Break Through Occupational Barriers: A Case Study of Female City Manager’s Career Progression

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According to data compiled by the International City/County Management Association’s Career and Equity Advancement Team, in 2021, 19 percent of city managers were women. This low percentage of women in the role means that it is considered to be a male-dominated occupation. The purpose of this qualitative case study is to explore what characteristics women possess that motivate them to break through occupational barriers to attain the highest non-elected municipal government leadership position. Using the Trait and Behavioral Theory of Leadership, Motivational Theory, and Role Congruency Theory as the theoretical frameworks, this study investigates, analyzes, and interprets the findings obtained from interviews with 16 Colorado female city managers to assess the occupational barriers these women had to face as well as the motivation and characteristics they possess that aided their career progression. The findings from this study conclude that although the occupational barriers the participants faced were not as pronounced as the researcher initially anticipated, the female city managers interviewed were able to share valuable insight into what it means to be a city manager, including what motivates them to continue to work in the role, what leadership characteristics they felt were essential to success, and their recommendations for future city managers. Understanding what characteristics women possess that motivate them to break through occupational barriers is vital in addressing occupational segregation within the public sector and this research seeks to help motivate and inspire future generations of women to pursue a career as a city manager and be successful in doing so.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Public Administration
Public Administration