This site is intended for healthcare professionals only

The NHS' gender imbalance: Women are still disadvantaged in nursing

Written by: | Published:

Women are still earning 14% less than men in nursi Women are still earning 14% less than men in nursing

Women fill only a third of senior nursing positions despite making up 90% of the workforce, new research has found.

Respondents to a survey by healthcare recruitment company Randstad Care believed that a lack of confidence and employer attitudes held women back.

‘Even though we live in a world with legislation to address this, we still have a culture where women are the main carers in families,’ said Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the QNI. ‘The expectations of a role such as director of nursing or chief nurse are not always compatible with childcare. I’ve seen how challenging it can be to balance the expectations of a senior role in nursing with the responsibilities of caring for one’s family.’

The survey found that 45% of healthcare professionals believe not enough is being done to get women into the top jobs, while 36% believe a glass ceiling still exists which prevents women from getting into senior roles.1

Chief nursing officer Jane Cummings said that the NHS has a clear target to achieve gender-balanced roles by 2020 and that nurturing young talent early is the key to encouraging women into leadership positions. ‘Developing leaders at all levels is one of my priorities – the potential in our workforce to manage the challenges of today and shape the future should not be underestimated,’ she said.

Women are also at the lower end of the pay scale with a 14% pay gap between men and women in nursing. The gender imbalance in senior positions means that women have been disproportionately impacted by pay restraint.

Pay for staff nurses has only risen by 1.6% in the last two years, whereas the sector’s senior positions received a pay increase of 6.1% during the same period. Because there are far more men in senior positions, women are losing out. One reason for this could be because the majority of women (84%) had never asked for a pay rise. Some 43% of men believed they are paid equally compared to just 24% of women and 13% of women argued that men and women will never be paid the same.

Victoria Short, managing director of Randstad Care, said it was ‘saddening’ that a gender pay gap still exists. ‘More needs to be done to redress this imbalance and ensure female nurses have the confidence and self belief to ask for pay rises and promotions.’

However, it is not all negative. The report cites The Athena Programme, which was established to support women to fulfil their potential as leaders across the public sector. The programme, open to applicants from the NHS, focuses on personal development and aims to help women overcome barriers in leadership positions; both real and perceived.

Ms Oldman said that the situation has improved over time. ‘When I started nursing in the late 1970s, there was an unspoken understanding that male staff would be the ones who went into management positions. This is no longer the case, which is a hugely positive development.’


1. Randstad Care. 2016. Assessing the lack of senior opportunities for women in nursing.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet your views to @IndyNurseMag

This material is protected by MA Healthcare Ltd copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.



Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code

Most read articles from Practice Nursing Journal

Practice Nursing Journal latest issue and most read articles.

Click here to read a selection of free to access articles from Practice Nursing Journal


Sign up to the newsletter


Independent Nurse is the professional resource for primary care and community nurses, providing clinical articles for practice nurses and prescribers.


Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up to date with the latest nursing news.

Stay Connected

Stay social with Independent Nurse by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook or connecting on LinkedIn.


Need access to some of our older articles? You can view our archive, or alternatively contact us.

Contact Us

MA Healthcare Ltd.
St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road
London, SE24 0PB

Tel: +44 (0)20 7738 5454
Registered in England and Wales No. 01878373

Meet the team


Find out how to contribute to Independent Nurse here.