Agency Leaders, Gendered Institutions, and Representative Bureaucracy


  • Judith R. Saidel,

    1. Judith R. Saidel is executive director of the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society and an associate professor of public administration and policy at the University at Albany, State University of New York. Her research interests include the demographics of executive branch leadership and representative bureaucracy, government and nonprofit sector relationships, and nonprofit governance. E-mail:
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Karyn Loscocco

    1. Karyn Loscocco is an associate professor of sociology at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She is interested in how gender structures social life. Much of her previous research focuses on how gender colors the meanings that people attach to paid work and the fit between work and family lives. She recently completed a study of women and men small business owners. E-mail:
    Search for more papers by this author


This study examines three central questions: Do women state agency heads establish priorities that advance women's interests more frequently than men agency heads? Among state agency heads with women-related top priorities, are there systematic differences between women and men in the influences on their priority choices? Do the organizational and political contexts in which agency leaders work explain variation in policy priorities? Analysis of data from a national survey of women and men department heads reveals that working in a redistributive agency affects whether a leader pursues a women-centered policy agenda, regardless of the leader's gender, other personal characteristics, or reported influences on priority choice. The authors conclude that the way representative bureaucracy actually plays out can be more fully understood if the tenets of social science theory on gendered institutions are incorporated into analyses of how representative bureaucracy works.