Female nurses account for almost 90% of nursing and midwifery staff yet two thirds of all senior positions in the sector are held by men and a 14% pay gap still exists.

To address the gender imbalance, it is essential female nurses acquire leadership skills to aid their career development and convince their employers they can not only manage teams, but are more than capable of climbing the career ladder too.

According to our recent UK nursing report, 45% of healthcare workers believe not enough is being done to get women into the top positions and 36% believe a glass ceiling still exists for women so there is room for improvement. Female nurses are also held back by the so-called “motherhood penalty” as taking time out to raise children often means they start back on lower salaries than their male counterparts.

Victoria Short, Randstad Care MD, said: “It is disappointing that there is still such an imbalance between the sexes in senior positions but given that 35% of women don’t ask for pay rises or promotions because of lack of confidence or belief in their own abilities, I firmly believe there is plenty that can be done to change the position.”

The lack of women in senior roles has been further exacerbated by a series of recent cuts to the NHS’s Band 7 and 8 roles, meaning competition for the top jobs is even tougher. Given that women are already held back by the gender imbalance it makes it harder than ever for them to rise through the ranks.

You can read our infographic to find out more about the impact of these cuts on senior nurses.

Female nurses should, therefore, look to improve their leadership skills at every opportunity in order to increase their chances of going for the top jobs.

Key steps for becoming an effective leader

There are many ways nurses can develop effective leadership skills which can be applied in the workplace and will increase the chances of promotion. 

Understand the importance of self-awareness

If you want to lead others, then you have to take a good look at yourself and understand what your strengths and weaknesses are. Knowing how you react in certain situations, what emotions you have and how they affect those around you is key to being able to lead others.

Do you react with anger? Are you calm under pressure? or do you become emotional? The way you react can impact on those around you and will highlight how effective or ineffective you are at dealing with a given situation.

Keeping a diary and understanding how to control your emotions can really help you gain greater self-awareness. Taking up some sort of physical exercise as well such as walking, running or swimming can also help you to deal with stress and become a calmer person, making you far more effective in those all-important leadership positions.

Discover and develop your own leadership style

Leadership styles vary from person to person and everyone’s is different but it is critical to develop an effective one if you are to deliver high-quality patient care. Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to be domineering or aggressive as some of the best leaders listen to what their staff has to say, empathise with them and take on their concerns.
Leaders tend to be dynamic, passionate and focussed on their role and good leaders will inspire and motivate their staff. You need to be able to nurture your staff, understand how they react emotionally and help them develop rather than shouting at them and demanding they behave in a certain way.

Become a mentor for junior nurses

Mentoring junior nurses is a great way to get you used to leadership. Not only can you pass on your wisdom and experience to others but you will develop leadership skills as result and learn how to respond better to others to get the best out of them.

Mentoring will increase your own confidence as well as improve your critical thinking skills, which in turn improves the quality of care you can provide and will prepare you for more senior roles.

Participate in workplace committees

Getting involved in workplace committees will give you an opportunity to see how things are run and understand why certain decisions are made. It will provide you with a broader understanding of the healthcare system, help you to identify issues and will teach you how to resolve them too.

It will also help you to better understand those who lead successfully in your field and provide you with mentors and role models to base your leadership progression on.