Perceptions of Motivation Among Female Federal Government Managers



Because of the decrease in resources and the increase in employee responsibilities, the federal government workforce needs engaged, hard-working managers. It appears that federal government leaders are not providing females with incentives that motivate them to serve in federal management positions; thus, fewer females are serving in these roles than are male. To address inequity between male and female managers in the Federal Government, the Office of Personnel and Management implemented the Federal Women’s Program (FWP).  This mandatory program is part of the agency’s equal employment opportunity (EEO) plan.  The FWP’s primary focus is to address the employment needs (i.e., recruitment, training, educational, retention, upward mobility, career counseling, mentoring, promotion, equity in pay) and barriers (i.e., sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and hostile work environment) of women as they relate to federal employment policies, practices and related initiatives. The purpose of this case study was to explore the perceptions of 15 female federal government managers regarding what motivates them to serve in management positions in the federal government and to explore the participants’ experiences in management positions. The findings of this study can assist FWP administrators in designing programs which can help to address the employment needs and barriers of federally employed women. A purposeful sample of 15 women from various federal agencies and departments, such as contracts and procurement, information technology, EEO, and human resources within the United States were recruited. To ensure these individuals met the sample criteria and had in-depth experiences regarding the phenomenon, the individuals answered demographic questions. Semi-structured interviews, observation and document review provided information about participants’ motivational experiences to serve in management positions in the federal government. Findings suggested that participants believed intrinsic motivation influenced them to become federal government managers.  Participants agreed that motivation in itself is important for females pursuing federal government management positions. Participants agreed that the most prevalent characteristic of female federal government managers were analytical abilities. Findings suggested strategies federal government leaders can implement to close the gender gap in managerial positions. Potential advancement strategies for federal government female managers include potential candidates seeking opportunities to develop themselves, volunteering for less attractive projects, and development of formal mentoring programs.  Findings from this study may provide leaders in the federal government with evidence-based information for developing training and mentoring programs to help females advance to management positons in the federal government. Future research involving the entire federal government may yield additional insight strategies that motivate female employees to serve in management positions.


Keywords:   women in leadership, perceptions in management, management, minority women leaders, motivation and leadership, career advancement, career aspirations, the glass ceiling, ethnic women leaders, perception, ethnic diversity, leadership, perceptions of discrimination, gender

This publication has been peer reviewed.
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Kenae Boyer Black, Christine Enslin, Renee Hall-Baker
Year of Publication: 
Journal, Book, Magazine or Other Publication Title: 
Perceptions of Motivation Among Female Federal Government Managers, The Exchange
Date Published: 
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Place Published: 
The Exchange
Publication Language: 
Academic Forum
Associated Awards: 
Best Conference Paper

Additional content will be provided upon request.