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Gender stereotypes should have no place in RCN’s defence of the pay deal

An all-female team represented unions in their pay negotiations with the government. But it is wrong to suggest that gender was a factor in criticism of the deal, writes nurse Pete Hyland

An all-female team represented unions in their pay negotiations with the government. But it is wrong to suggest that gender was a factor in criticism of the deal, writes nurse Pete Hyland


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Despite the challenges and issues facing nursing as a profession, it is a rewarding career that can create a sense of belonging. However, a recent article by RCN lead pay negotiator Josie Irwin, headlined A ‘male’ style of negotiation would not have delivered a better pay deal, is more likely to encourage division than inclusion.

Nursing in 2018 reflects society as a whole, and this enhances the care that we provide to our patients. We are proudly diverse in terms of our age, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. To argue against a ‘male style of negotiating’, as Ms Irwin does, risks alienating a section of the nursing community.

This article may have reinforced gender stereotypes by suggesting that men are more aggressive negotiators. I have no doubt that most nurses will have worked alongside male colleagues who do not fit such an ‘aggressive’ stereotype.

Persuasiveness and personality

Nurses are generally an open-minded group of people and would consider the gender of the negotiating team to be unimportant. The article makes generalisations based on gender, such as women being ‘more persuasive’ than men. Surely a person’s persuasiveness depends on their personality, not their gender?

It is understandable and only right that the RCN negotiating team wish to explain their reasons for being in favour of the proposed pay deal. They should do this by continuing to articulate a reasoned argument for the deal – it should not be necessary to label opponents as ‘deluded’ and ‘unrealistic’. Reasoned argument is eroded when insults are traded.

Ms Irwin also took issue with social media encouraging ‘simplistic, black-and-white positions that don’t give much scope to moderate opinions’.  While there are probably examples of this, it is unfair and unreasonable to suggest it is the norm.

An ability to analyse

Social media can provide a platform to promote debate, share ideas and establish common ground with colleagues. Nurses should be given credit for being able to critically analyse information. We do this on a daily basis during our working lives. Social media opens up sources of advice and encouragement for nurses. Rather than fearing the negatives, it should be embraced as a positive support mechanism and sounding board.

I don’t want to argue how RCN members should vote on the proposed pay deal. But we should trust our colleagues to make their own informed decisions about the deal. I’m confident that these decisions will not be influenced by gender or posts on social media.


Pete Hyland is a mental health nurse

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