This study asks how do the internal dynamics of international organizations (IOs) affect the ability of women to attain high-ranking professional positions within international secretariats? To answer this question, theoretical understandings of the autonomy of IOs and the influence of their staff members as leaders are employed, arguing that individuals that comprise the internal bureaucracies of IOs are independent and influential in determining the policies, processes, and performance of their organization. In reviewing the relevant literature regarding IOs, gender, and leadership, this research identifies three key internal dynamics that jointly interact to influence the ability of women to attain-high level leadership positions: sociocultural dynamics (which include an IO’s organizational culture) and institutional mechanisms (which include an IO’s organizational structure and internal gender equality policies). This paper hypothesizes that an increased presence of gender-relevant internal dynamics in an IO will yield a greater ability of women to attain high-ranking professional positions. This study isolates the effect of institutional dynamics on the ability of women to attain high-level leadership positions, and to do so, conducts comparative case studies across four UN System organizations (UNFPA, UNDP, UNIDO and UNRWA). Given many IOs with organizational cultures open to female empowerment still lack a significant number of women in leadership positions and that many IOs approach gender equality efforts through their structures and internal gender equality policies, it is critical to understand if institutional mechanisms are independently effective on the ability of women to attain high-level leadership positions. To analyze whether or not institutional mechanisms are influential in allowing women to attain such positions separate from the influence of organizational culture, the case studies control for organizational culture by ensuring all case studies possess organizational cultures open to female empowerment. This coding data for organizational structure and internal gender equality policies is synthesized with original interviews conducted with staff members at each of the case study organizations. In analyzing the coding and interview data for each IO’s organizational structure, it is evident that organizational structure alone does not sufficiently explain the variation in the dependent variable and that organizational structure cannot be isolated from the influence of organizational culture. An IO’s internal gender equality policies were found to be more significant in influencing the ability of women to attain high-level leadership positions, but this dynamic was also deeply embedded in an interactive effect with organizational culture. Thus, despite the methodological attempt to independently analyze the influence of institutional dynamics from the influence of organizational culture, on the ability of women to attain high-ranking professional positions within an IO, this research has illustrated that the interactive effect across these mechanisms cannot be isolated. This study fills a hole in the existing literature by analyzing the nexus of gender, leadership, IO and public administration scholarship and encourages future research to continue expanding understandings of gender in IO leadership.
Harris, Sabrina K., "Who Runs the World? An Analysis of the Internal Dynamics of International Organizations and Their Impact on the Ability of Women to Attain High-Level Leadership Positions" (2019). Senior Independent Study Theses. Paper 8726.
Gender and Sexuality | International Relations | Leadership Studies | Other International and Area Studies
women, international relations, international organizations, gender, leadership, public administration
Bachelor of Arts
Senior Independent Study Thesis
© Copyright 2019 Sabrina K. Harris