New research shows how both men and women in senior positions in public service are responding to the new management agenda.A significant part of this reform agenda has been a focus on new professional competencies, such as managerial and business skills, competitive behaviour and high performance.
The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, found that many of the women and men in the study welcomed these reforms in that they challenged traditional, patriarchal structures and ways of working that were inefficient as well as discriminatory.
There was less widespread welcome for some masculine and competitive styles of working. Many women experienced tensions in taking on what they saw as highly masculine professional identities.
Some women and men viewed as legitimate within the new public management agenda, challenging these competitive, masculine practices and promoted instead a more ‘feminine’ management style emphasising cooperation, partnership, and a more customer-centred and ethical public service ethos.
The researchers say their evidence shows that whilst the new management agenda may not yet offer true equality of opportunity for women, it is offering women, and men, the chance to challenge highly competitive and performance oriented styles of working and promote instead greater diversity and difference.
The conclusions are based on questionnaires and in depth int rviews with professionals in three public services – the police, social services and secondary schools.