• Gender and Nursing as a Profession

    This project – which was funded by the Royal College of Nursing and ran between January and September 2019 – examined issues at the nexus of gender, pay and nursing to better understand barriers to a meaningful and sustainable profession in a changing context. Issues of interest included: What is the current pay bargaining system? What are the pay structures? What is it about pay structures, for example, that disincentivises nurses to remain within NHS work and leads them to seek agency work?

    We found that the “old-fashioned view that caring for others is a feminine characteristic still persists in British society." This has contributed to the suppression of nurses’ wages and working conditions for generations.

    Some nine out of 10 nurses in the UK are women. Their pay is on average £15.42 per hour, less than a third of that of doctors and dentists.

    The gender pay gap amounts to 17% for nurses on a weekly basis, despite the fact that there is no differences in hourly pay. This is as a result of women being more likely to work on a part-time basis.

    Nurses from a Black, Asian and minority ethinic (BAME) background appear to earn more on a weekly basis than white nurses; typically this cohort of nurses is less likely to work part-time and more likely to use overtime to increase their pay than white nurses. Paradoxically, when structural factors such as working hours are considered, BAME nurses earn 10% less (weekly and hourly) than their white counterparts.

    Nurses “routinely take on tasks that would have previously been the preserve of junior doctors”, and they are constantly pushing forward advances in nursing practice. However, their pay does not reflect this.

    Nursing is a graduate profession, and has been since 2009. All nurses entering the profession since then are required to have a degree, reflecting the high-level technical and clinically skilled nature of the work.

    Despite the growing complexity and technical nature of the work, as well as the difficult emotional labour it entails, ‘old-fashioned’ perceptions persist of nursing as a job carried out by women for whom caring is ‘natural’, thus deskilling and devaluing those involved. We see care as a naturally feminine skill or characteristic. This sits in direct opposition to the high level of skills and professionalisation required in contemporary nursing.

    Dr Anne Laure Humbert, Director of the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice, and co-author of the report

    Concerns were also raised regarding the well-being of nurses, primarily because of high levels of work intensity and unsafe staffing levels.

    Dr Kate Clayton-Hathway, Research Fellow at the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice

    This report is an important step in challenging and changing perceptions about nursing. In reality, nursing is a complex and skilled profession yet too often nurses feel their voices are unheard and their value unrecognised.

    Rachael McIlroy, RCN Senior Research Lead

    The full report and findings can be found here >>

  • Get involved: join us

    Would you like to become a friend of the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice? We are grateful to our Centre friends for their support, which covers a vast range of activities.

    How you can help

    • Speak at one of our conferences or share your expertise at events
    • Sponsor an event or research project
    • Provide access to an organisation for research purposes
    • Provide prizes for best students’ dissertations on equality issues
    • Mentor our students
    • Sponsor a PhD student

  • Please contact us to find out more

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    Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice
    Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane
    OX3 0BP
    Tel: +44 (0)1865 488108

    Research Fellow 

    Dr Kate Clayton-Hathway
    Email: kclayton-hathway@brookes.ac.uk 


    Dr Anne Laure Humbert 
    Email: a.humbert@brookes.ac.uk

    Founding Director

    Professor Simonetta Manfredi
    Email: smanfredi@brookes.ac.uk

    Research Administrator 

    Mieke Tyrrell
    Email: mtyrrell@brookes.ac.uk