One of the Boys? Gender Similarities and Differences in Human Capital among Senior Civil Servants in Denmark

Hjalte Gram , Caroline Howard Grøn*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Studies have shown how women are underrepresented in senior executive positions in public and private organizations. Equal representation matters both for reasons of performance and legitimacy, and, to understand the mechanisms behind the glass ceiling, we explore if the women making it to the top of the Danish civil service differ from the men who do so. We want to understand if senior executive positions require something different of women than men. Using a dataset consisting of the entire career trajectory of all senior civil servants in Denmark, we find that, on numerous human capital dimensions, the women and men making it to the top are quite similar, for example, in terms of tenure and educational level. However, we find on the one hand that men are more often employed in the most prestigious departments and, at the same time, it seems that men with a profile deviating from the norm are more likely to make it to the top than women. This may indicate that the most prestigious positions – also in terms of early-career positions – are less accessible to women, and that women are less willing to apply for jobs outside their usual domain, or that those responsible for recruitment are less willing to take a chance on a woman with a slightly unorthodox profile. Hence, our study indicates that greater interest should be paid to the dynamics keeping women at lower levels of the hierarchy and possibly to encourage them to apply for top positions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Political Studies
Pages (from-to)241-263
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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