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

McIntosh, Bryan

Authors

Bryan McIntosh



Abstract

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.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Oct 5, 2012
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Gender; career progression; perception; nursing
Public URL http://researchrepository.napier.ac.uk/id/eprint/5683
Contract Date Oct 5, 2012
Award Date 2010-03

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