Graduate Project

An MPA Mentorship Program Designed to Address the Gender Equity Gap in City Manager Positions

Research shows that the percentage of women holding Chief Administration Officer (CAO), also known as City Manager, positions, 13% is disproportionate to the percentage of women in our population, 51%. Nationally, women hold 53% of Assistant to CAO positions, 34% of Assistant CAO positions, and 30% of Department Head, or Director, positions; however, they hold only 13% of CAO positions. Los Angeles County has 88 incorporated cities of which only eight cities have female CAOs; thus, Los Angeles County has an even lower female representation, 9% of CAOs, than the nation’s already dismal percentage. This gender gap in CAOs is significant and has been stagnant with no significant increase for over the past thirty years. Women have received an average of 75% of Master in Public Administration (MPA) degrees, the preferred education requirement for CAOs. This study analyzes the root causes for gender disparities in CAO positions within Los Angeles County. There are a significant percentage of women with the ideal work experience and educational requirements for the CAO position in the County. Moreover, this study proposes extracurricular programming efforts for Cal Poly Pomona’s MPA program in an effort to increase female awareness of city management career paths, self-efficacy in city management, and identity with the CAO position. This study includes quantitative analysis in the form of a survey of current Cal Poly Pomona MPA students, both male and female to gauge the awareness, self-efficacy, and identity levels within city management career paths. A qualitative study of interviews with current female CAOs will examine the educational, career, and personal internal and external conditions that allowed them to persist in their career path to CAO. The aim of this study is to create a pilot program that is scalable and, if proven successful by subsequent research, will ultimately increase gender equity in CAO positions in Los Angeles County.