Posted by: elisetaylor6588 | April 11, 2019

Public vs Private Sector

While I was interviewing my woman leader, she brought up a very interesting point that I have not been able to figure out. While she worked in the private sector, she claims she experienced much less sexism and intersectionality.

As described by Tammy, the private sectors were easier for her to work in because she experienced less outright sexism. “Private sectors value innovation and effectiveness. When I was younger working at a private organization, I experienced less sexism than I do now, working in government work.” While in the private sector, Tammy felt that she was on more of an even playing field with her male coworkers because you had to prove yourself and prove your worth. She argues that it is much easier to see someone’s achievements when you are looking for innovative ideas and improvements in technology, but in government work you do not get paid based on your performance, but because you work there.

She brought up many good points, and the idea about incentive and general behavior seemed to resonate with me. However, upon further research it seems like Tammy may have experienced something rather unique. According to an article I have listed below, women make up 34.4% of senior executives in the public sector, but this number significantly decreases to only 14.6% in the private sector. The article further discusses that this may be due to the fact that there are (generally) more jobs available in the federal government. But this article fails to analyze other public jobs that are separate or below the federal level. It should also not go unnoticed that this article was written when Hillary Clinton was making massive strides in the 2016 Presidential election.

The very thing that Tammy praises about the private work sector – that you are judged off of your incentive, and thus removed from your gender – contradicts the current belief that private sectors are harder for women precisely because they need to “prove themselves” in a way that is dependent upon someone else’s recognition. Tammy also mentioned that private sectors are more innovative in technology which she believed helped remove her gender from her attributes and qualities. However, Tammy experienced the private work sector nearly 50 years ago and times have clearly changed.

What do y’all think about the use of technology and specifically is it helpful in removing gender bias by leveling the playing field for men and women to make equal strides.

“At the company in the private sector it became “not who are you, but what can you do”, which set men and women on the same grounds. With my current organization since it is considered government work, there is noticeably less incentive and all you have to do to get paid is to stay out of trouble.”

Regarding her statement on incentive, do you believe that someone who works in the private sector has more incentive, and if so, is this because private sectors are built solely off of people’s achievements, whereas government work is more stable? Lastly, by looking at the most recent election and all of the women who were elected to Congress, do these top federal employees taint the true experience of women in government. What if we were to briefly disregard females in the White House and focus on women who, like Tammy, work at public universities or corporations. Do you believe this would change the statistics and stories of women and the challenges they face in the work force?


  1. I think you bring up a really interesting concept. It would make sense that a place in the private sector that places high value on innovation and performance would even the playing field for women, but the fact that the statistics do not seem to reflect that is interesting. It seems like it might just be a complication of several factors at play- possibly, this type of working environment levels the playing field and opens up opportunities for women to succeed; however, it may be that women are not succeeding here because of influences such as being judged more harshly. I would have expected that giving women the opportunity to succeed based on performance would lead to high levels of success, but if they are being criticized more closely or judged more harshly for their work, that would certainly hinder their success. I don’t have any evidence for this happening, but I’m just trying to think of reasons why the statistics would reveal what they do. It could also have to do with other things we’ve talked about in class- that women judge themselves more harshly and don’t think of their achievements to be as impressive as men typically do (in general), or the fact that women are less likely to put forward their accomplishments and to self-promote. There are probably a multitude of factors at play, but it is definitely an interesting and complicated reality to try to navigate.

  2. This is a really interesting idea when it comes to women and leadership, and it’s not one that I had given much thought to before. Based on your description of the private sector, I feel like women may be more likely to face more judgment or they at least have more opportunity to face more judgment. A lot of the judgments that people make today go under our own conscious thought; when women are ambitious in a private sector position, could that be seen in the wrong way? While I’m sure there are more private sector jobs that solely look at achievement, the opportunity to pass judgment we aren’t even aware of still remains. Although, I’m sure this same type of judgment also pervades the public sector too.

  3. This is a very interesting idea and one that I had never really thought about before. It does make sense that private sectors even the playing field for women because it is based more on performance and experience. One of the topics my leader I interviewed mentioned was how important having experience and knowledge was because it gives you an advantage over other men and women in the company. She also mentioned that was how she was able to achieve her recent promotion because she had more experience than anyone else. It does confuse me why that article you included says the opposite and it may be because public sector jobs, like government work, are needed more than private sector jobs therefore more women are able to work in public sector jobs. I’m sure there is a better explanation for it but to me it makes more sense that private sector jobs would do a better job at removing gender bias because it is so performance based.

  4. Elise, I think you bring up a very interesting concept, and not one that we have really discussed in class. I do think the private sector offers more incentives for merit-based performance than the public sector does. It is interesting that the statistics do not necessarily reflect the values of the private sector – innovation and performance – which any capable team member can bring to an organization. Admittedly, I do think Jane’s experiences are very individualized to her specific experiences within the public and private sectors. I am sure that other people within these fields have had different experiences regarding sexism and intersectionality, depending on where they work and what the values of that company are.

    When looking at the makeup of federal positions, I do think that they are slightly determined by the administration that is in power. I would argue that President Obama’s administration placed more emphasis on the diversity of employees within the federal sector than the current administration – I would be curious to see the statistics on this supposition, though. Personally, one of my previous coworkers – a black female who worked on the Hill for the House finance committee – said that as soon as President Trump came into office, she knew that she was going to transition to the private sector during his administration because she was not confident that his administration would emulate the same ideals towards the federal sector as past administrations.

    This was a very interesting topic as someone who is currently deciding whether to work in the public or private sector – wish we could have talked about this in class!

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