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The impact of gender perceptions and professional values on women’s careers in nursing

Bryan McIntosh (School of Health, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK)
Ronald McQuaid (Stirling Management School, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)
Anne Munro (The Business School, Edinburgh Napier, Edinburgh, UK)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 2 March 2015




This purpose of this paper is to engage two enduring sets of assumptions within nursing: firstly, that woman with children should prioritise the care of children; and secondly, that nursing standards require nurses to put their profession above other priorities. Commitment is linked to full-time working which contrasts sharply with the reality for many women with children who need to work part-time and are not able to change or extend working hours


This qualitative research involved the use of 32 in-depth interviews with 32 female registered nurses with children and without children. They were employed in “acute” nursing, aged between 25 and 60 years, and in registered grades “D” to “senior nurse manager”. They worked or had worked on a variety of employment conditions, some, but not all, had taken career breaks. The rationale for exclusively selecting women was based on the need to identify and describe organisational, situational and individual factors related to women and the associations and barriers which affected their careers.


In a female-dominated profession, we find the profession resisting attempts to make the profession more accessible to women with young children. The career progression of women with children is inhibited, and this is driven in part by a determination to maintain “traditional” employment practices.


This paper develops Heilman’s argument that gender perceptions, by both males and females, can be biased against women, and these produce gender inequalities in employment. These findings are relevant across many areas of employment, and they are significant in relation to broadening the debate around equal opportunities for women.



McIntosh, B., McQuaid, R. and Munro, A. (2015), "The impact of gender perceptions and professional values on women’s careers in nursing", Gender in Management, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 26-43.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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