Document Type


Publication Date



bureaucratic ambition, gender gap, gender and leadership, educational leadership


We explore the relationships between gender, career ambition, and the emergence of executive leadership. In Bureaucratic Ambition, Teodoro (2011) shows that public administration career systems shape bureaucrats’ ambitions, political behavior, and management strategies. But career systems are not neutral conduits of talent: administrators are more likely to pursue advancement when career systems favor them. This research proposes that women and men respond to gendered public career systems. Using national and state-level data on public school managers, we find marked gender disparities in the career paths that lead educators from the classroom to the superintendent post. Specifically, we find that female and elementary school teachers take longer to advance than male and secondary school teachers. We also find gender disparities in certification and experiences among school principals. Accordingly, female and elementary principals report lower levels of ambition. Such gendered career systems may lead to biases in policy agendas and management styles.

Series Title

EDRE Working Paper

Series Number