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Gender as a “strategic action”: New Public Management and the professionalisation of nursing in Portugal

Teresa Carvalho (SACSJP, University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal)
Rui Santiago (CIPES, Matosinhos, Portugal)

Equal Opportunities International

ISSN: 0261-0159

Article publication date: 25 September 2009




The purpose of this paper is to explore the way gender may be used as an instrument to avoid New Public Management (NPM) potential processes of deprofessionalisation in nursing.


In total, 83 nurses with managerial duties were interviewed in autonomous and corporate public hospitals in Portugal.


Nurses used gender as an argument to legitimate their presence in management, and in this way, to keep their control over the profession. Gender stereotypes were used to legitimate their position in two different ways. Firstly, nurses reproduced and reinforced gendered inequality by supporting their male colleagues careers. Secondly, they valorised their feminine skills sustaining that women were in better position to manage hospitals as an extended role from the private domain.

Research limitations/implications

The paper uses a sample from only one country and care must be taken when extrapolating conclusions to the wider population.

Practical implications

Acknowledges the way NPM reinforces gender stereotypes and contributes to redefine professionalism.


Recognition of the complexity and diversity of gender issues in the organisational context and in the structuration of professional legitimacy.



Carvalho, T. and Santiago, R. (2009), "Gender as a “strategic action”: New Public Management and the professionalisation of nursing in Portugal", Equal Opportunities International, Vol. 28 No. 7, pp. 609-622.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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