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Gender pay gap: male nurses disproportionately represented in profession’s top jobs

Men reach higher Agenda for Change pay grades faster than women – London South Bank study

Men reach higher Agenda for Change pay grades faster than women – London South Bank study


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Men have one in five of the best-paid jobs in UK nursing and reach higher pay grades faster than female colleagues.

Findings of a London South Bank University (LSBU) study come despite nursing being a predominantly female profession, with women making up 89% of the workforce.

Gender and opportunity

Lead researcher and LSBU chair of workforce modelling Alison Leary said opportunity in relation to gender in the profession had not changed for 30 years.

Professor Leary and colleagues looked at the UK-wide population of NHS nurses on Agenda for Change (AfC) pay bands 5 to 9 (401,069) over a one-year period, 2016-17.

Findings included:

  • At AfC pay band 8d, which has a starting salary of £70,206, men hold 17.1% of all jobs in England, despite making up only 11.4% of the workforce.
  • In Northern Ireland, men make up just 6.6% of the nursing workforce but hold 27.5% of the highest paid 'very senior manager' jobs.

These findings are reflected across the UK. 

Nursing has a sticky floor – for women

Professor Leary said: 'Nursing as a profession has a sticky floor, rather than a glass ceiling, with a lack of gender opportunity rather than the gender pay gap, being the problem.


Lead researcher Alison Leary.

'This study shows that lack of gender opportunity in the nursing profession hasn’t changed much in 30 years – it is absolutely vital now that employers strive to create a more supportive working environment for women.'

A separate analysis of 9,845 specialist advanced nurse roles in the NHS, using 2009-2017 data, shows that men take less time to reach higher pay bands than women.

Women more likely to accept demotion

The study also found female nurses were also more likely to accept a demotion or a compromise on pay. Researchers say the reasons are unclear.

No male nurses accepted a lower pay band to obtain their desired post but females did in bands 6,7 and 8a.

Further study is now needed to determine the root causes of pay inequality and how to overcome it, the team said.


Further information

Nursing pay by gender distribution in the UK – does the Glass Escalator still exist?


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