Hidden Figures!? The impact of female leaders on digital transformation in public organisations

Just as private companies, public organisations are required to constantly adapt themselves to a changing environment, to innovate service delivery and value propositions. Digital transformation, in particular, pressures public organisations to change and scholars have found public leaders to play a key role in successfully achieving technology-induced change (Luk, 2009). While the public workforce in general is characterised by a balanced gender-ratio with over 50% of women working in governmental organisations, it is the leadership positions that are still dominated by male employees (OECD, 2014). This bias becomes problematic when considering public organisations’ obligation to represent society in all its diversity. More than that, research indicates a positive effect of female leadership on sustainability in public organisations (OECD, 2014) and shows that female leaders more often exert a transformative leadership style, which is associated with a greater willingness to take risks and question established routines (Sabharwal et al., 2017) – factors that are also known to foster digital innovation.

Against this background, this thesis investigates the impact of female leaders on digital transformation in public organisations. Potential focuses are:

  • Perceptions and conceptions of digital transformation among female leaders
  • Formal and informal strategies to implement digital transformation
  • Female leaders’ self-perception of their roles as transformers/innovators/public leaders (e.g., scope of action, leadership style, power exertion, network building etc.)
  • Challenges in designing and implementing digital transformation as female leader


Luk, S. C. (2009). The impact of leadership and stakeholders on the success/failure of e-government service: Using the case study of e-stamping service in Hong Kong. Government Information Quarterly 26:4, 594-604.

OECD (2014). Women, Government and Policy Making in OECD Countries. Fostering Diversity for Inclusive Growth. https://www.oecd.org/berlin/publikationen/women-government-policy-making.htm

Sabharwal, M.; Levine, H., D’Agostingo, M. J. (2017). Gender Differences in the Leadership Styles of MPA Directors, Journal of Public Affairs Education 23:3, 869-884.