Research Output

The impact of gender and gender perceptions upon career progressions in registered nursing in Scotland.

  The academic research into the relationship between gender, gender perceptions and
career progression with registered nursing in the National Health Sector in Scotland
remains under-conceptualised. While the effects of gender, working hours and school
aged children upon career progression have been widely discussed, their short and
long-term impacts have not been quantified. An exegesis of the extant literature also
reveals limited investigation of the engagement between gender perceptions. Gender
perceptions are defined for the purposes of this study as a simplified and standardised
conception concerning the vocational and social roles of women (Diekman & Eagle,
2000) and their impact on women's career progression.
This thesis considers the impacts of these factors through a longitudinal analysis of a
unique national database (NHS Scotland) of 65,781 nurses which includes 46,565
nurses who were registered over the period 2000-2008. It examines gender patterns
within nursing careers in Scotland and explores the importance of various factors in
explaining the influence of gender on the career progression of registered nurses. It
explores the interactions between gender perceptions and professional values and how
they reinforce each other to the relative detriment of women, particularly when the
values and perceptions are in competition.
The research was conducted in three phases. The first phase involved a quantitative
analysis of the gender patterns within the entire nursing workforce in Scotland
comprising 65,781 employees. The second phase consisted of a longitudinal
examination which explored the composition of the workforce, working hours,
dependent children, career breaks and qualifications of registered nurses. This
quantitative analysis sought to discern the factors and variables that influence
women's career outcomes. This third phase of the research draws upon in-depth
interviews with 32 female registered nurses in hospital 'acute' nursing from grades
'D' to senior nurse manager aged between 25-65 who have been employed in a
variety of contractual working conditions, areas and grades.
Both phases of the research yielded a number of important findings. The quantitative
study found that the influence of career breaks on career outcomes differed between
female and male nurses. Career breaks had a significant detrimental impact on women's career outcomes, while in the case of men the findings revealed that they did
not in general work on reduced hours and career breaks positively impacted upon
their career outcomes. The findings also revealed that women with children of a
school age gained less post-registration nursing qualifications and this had a negative
impact on their career outcomes. The qualitative study found that perceptions
concerning parenthood actively informed women's access to and receipt of training
and that gender stereotypes played a significant part in women's career outcomes.
Professional values appeared to compound the agency and importance of the gender
perceptions with their weighting of full-time working and professional flexibility and
commitment at the expense of individual requirements. The active fusion of these
factors combined to reduce the career outcomes of women with children of a school
age in comparison to women without childcare responsibilities and men regardless of their circumstances.
The findings are relevant to the wider areas of equality of opportunity, employability
as well as gender scholarship and add to the understanding of the impact of gender
and gender perceptions upon career progression. They confirm that gender has a
positive effect on the career progression of men and a negative effect on the career
progression of women. Secondly, women's career progression in general is
incrementally reduced by the presence relative to the age of the dependent children,
the younger the child the greater the negative impact. For women there is a 'family
penalty' in terms of career progression. It establishes that degree of impact children
have upon women's career progression and outcomes. It confirms that gender
perceptions and professional values work create a tension which works against
women's individual requirements and career outcomes and creates unequal patterns of
inclusion, particularly in relation to the access and receipt of training which is a key
mechanism of the transfer of gender disadvantage. The complex relationship between
dependent children, working hours, training and gender perceptions are part of a
mechanism by which women's relative career disadvantages are transmitted.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    28 February 2010

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare


McIntosh, B. The impact of gender and gender perceptions upon career progressions in registered nursing in Scotland. (Thesis)


Gender; career progression; perception; nursing;

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