Women perceive bias in NHS finance profession

18 May 16

Fewer than half of women working in NHS finance think promotion processes are fair and based on merit, according to Future-Focused Finance.

The organisation, which works to boost the profile of the finance function within the NHS, questioned more than 1,000 employees about their experiences of gender, ethnicity and disability in the health service.

Its report, Diversity in NHS Finance Leadership: beliefs, behaviours and barriers, found only 43% of women thought promotions were fair and merit-based and that they were 40% more likely than their male counterparts to think they had experienced bias in their careers.

Female NHS finance staff were also 28% more likely than men to have experienced barriers to career progression, and 46% more likely to think their gender under-represented in senior roles.

Only 30% of respondents thought their organisation’s board fully represented the community it was supposed to serve in terms of diversity.

FFF has formed a task force that will seek to improve diversity through education, encouraging those at the top of organisations to challenge current practices, identifying and supporting talented staff to progress and ensuring consistent diversity messages are heard across NHS organisations.

The initiative is supported by Bob Alexander, deputy chief executive at NHS Improvement and by NHS England’s chief financial officer Paul Baumann.

Alexander said: “This new research shows significant differences in gender representation at senior levels in NHS finance, as well as a workforce whose ethnic diversity is failing to reflect the communities it exists to serve.

“The whole NHS finance community is pulling together so it can play its part in helping make the efficiency savings and service transformations needed to build a fit-for-the-future NHS. With significant international evidence showing that a lack of diversity hinders performance, the NHS can’t afford not to make progress when there is currently so much pressure on the service to improve efficiency whilst keeping standards high.”

Baumann added: “Diversity within the workforce, and in particular finance, can be used to drive business success, enabling organisations to become more successful, sustainable and better equipped to meet future challenges.”

FFF noted the biennial census of NHS finance staff showed 72% of the workforce identified as white British, rising to 88% at director level.

Although 62% of the NHS finance workforce is female, only 26% of directors were women.

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