Slow change at the top: 'Old hands' and 'accidental executives in NSW local government

Wiley: 24 months
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Public Administration, 2016, 75 (1), pp. 89 - 99 (10)
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Scholars and practitioners alike have recognised that an increased role for women leaders in Australian local government would strengthen the sector, yet little research to date has examined the career paths of non-elected officials. This paper combines the gender in organisations literature with careers theory to examine the career paths of 16 General Managers (GMs) in NSW. We found that half the participants had linear career paths based entirely within local government and half had boundaryless careers originating outside the sector. This second cohort consisted overwhelmingly of women. Nevertheless, a high incidence of happenstance characterised both career types. Several participants saw themselves pitted against a gendered (i.e.: male) group of ‘old hands’ who were resistant to change being driven by ‘accidental executives’, a high proportion of whom were women. The findings have implications for a sector attempting to attract and retain skilled staff, particularly women.
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