The Paula Principle

The Paula Principle
“Most women work below their level of competence”
Tom Schuller
NHS Employers Strategic Forum
Oct 2014
The challenge
“The NHS is committed to offering development
and learning opportunities for all full-time and
part-time staff. No matter where you start
within the NHS you'll have access to extra
training and be given every opportunity to
progress within the organisation.”
The Peter Principle (1969)
“Every employee rises to his
level of incompetence”
The Paula Principle in short
Across OECD countries, a growing female/male
gender gap in educational performance.
But on the employment side – careers and pay –
the male\female gap is closing only slowly – if at
Source OECD Closing the Gender Gap 2012
Key Crossovers
Girls overtake boys in getting 2+ A levels
Women overtake men in HE participation
Ditto at postgraduate level
Women more likely to go on adding to their human capital…..
Proportion of population undertaking training or education in last four weeks
by age and gender
Source: Eurostat; in Houston & Osborne THEMP 2013
Whilst on pay and careers it’s a very different
Source: HM Revenue and customs 28/12/2012
Pay gap: closing but for how long? The crucial
importance of a lifecourse perspective
percengtage gap
1958 cohort
1970 cohort
Source: Jenny Neuberger
% of women in the NHS :
• · chief executives – 40%
• · finance directors – 26%
• · nursing directors – 87%
• · HR directors – 69%
• · medical directors – 24%
% of consultants: 67% men 33% women
% of doctors in training: 42% men 58% women
”Full-time women achieved hospital consultant status slightly earlier–
on average in 11.3 years compared to full-time men’s 11.7 - and they
are as likely as men if not more so to be found working in hospital
specialisms as in general practice, though their specialism choices are
different. But women who at any point work part-time are very
heavily over-represented in general practice, and take much longer to
achieve consultant status, if they get there at all. Amongst the 1977
and 1988 graduates working in hospitals only 67% of those who had
not always worked full-time from the first two cohorts had reached
consultant status, compared with 96% of men and 92% of women who
had always worked full-time.”
Kathryn S Taylor, Trevor W Lambert, Michael J Goldacre, ‘ Career
progression and destinations, comparing men and women in the NHS:
postal questionnaire surveys’, British Medical Journal 2009;338:b1735
‘Careers’: not only ‘professionals’
‘Careers’: is it the glass ceiling?
Or the sticky floor?
What explains
the PP?
Structural: child/eldercare
Psychology: self-confidence+
Vertical networks
• Choice
Issues for discussion (alongside the 5
• How accurately and appropriately do our
systems reward ‘competence’?
• What more could be done to value ‘nontraditional’ career paths, especially when
people have longer working lives?
• How far can you innovate/tailor your practices
to meet the PP challenge ?

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