Men in the nursing workforce have an advantage in terms of pay, because they are over-represented at senior bands compared to their overall proportion to the UK nursing population, according to a new study.
With just 11.3% nurses in England being male, the research revealed a “disparity” in terms of access to higher pay between the genders and the proportion of those at higher pay against the population.
“For the NHS to become an inclusive employer of choice it is necessary to improve the recruitment, retention, progression, development and experience of female nurses”
The research, published last week in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, also found that men have an advantage in terms of faster attainment of higher grades from the point of their registration.
The UK study authors who worked on the paper included Geoffrey Punshon, Katrina Maclaine, Paul Trevatt, Mark Radford, Oliver Shanley, and Alison Leary.
In an interview with Nursing Times, Professor Leary said the team “weren’t entirely surprised” with what they uncovered after collecting and analysing national workforce datasets from across the UK.
The study paper notes that, despite the gendered occupation that nursing is, the advantage of men in terms of pay is apparent. It found that, for specialist and advanced practice nurses, it appears that men are able to achieve a higher paid role faster than women do.
In their paper, the researchers warned that “if this disparity in pay and opportunity is not addressed, inequality will continue to be present”.
For all four countries in the UK, the study found a lower proportion of nurses who are male at Agenda for Change pay band 5 – the lowest pay band for registered nurses – in comparison to the overall proportion of male registered nurses in each country.
The authors highlighted that reasons for the gender pay gap and disparity of career opportunity were “complex and not fully understood”, and so called for further study to determine the root causes of the apparent inequality and how to overcome it.
Ms Leary explained to Nursing Times that the authors had known previously that “men in female professions get promoted faster and are more likely to earn more money”, and therefore decided to look at the national data for nursing to see what they could uncover.
“We weren’t entirely surprised with what we found,” she said. “But it’s good to be able to look at it and actually look at the extent of it across all four countries and also, because we have a dataset that isn’t available to the wider population, we’d never really looked at that before.”
In particular, Professor Leary highlighted to Nursing Times that it was “interesting to see that even in specialist advance practice roles, men still have an advantage”.
The research paper also revealed that England had the highest percentage of nurses who were male, standing at 11.3%. Meanwhile, Scotland had 10.6%, Wales 9.7% and Northern Ireland 6.6%.
In terms of the gender imbalance, the study authors warned that “in order for the NHS to become an inclusive employer of choice it is necessary to improve the recruitment, retention, progression, development and experience of female nurses to address the current gender imbalance and reduce it in the future”.
They warned that these issues must be taken into consideration when attempting to address the gender imbalance among nurses and to “ensure that the recruitment of more male nurses does not further disadvantage female nurses”.