The role and experience of women chief executives in the NHS gendered stories of leadership in difficult times

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Colleges, School and Institutes


This research sought to map and analyse the demography of the two main populations of chief executives in the National Health Service (NHS) in England, namely those in primary care trusts (PCTs) and NHS trusts. A national survey of chief executives was carried out in 2003 and repeated for follow up purposes in 2006. This revealed that the PCT chief executive population differed significantly from that of NHS trusts in relation to: gender; age; salary; and career history.
The second stage of research focused on the role and experience of women chief executives in the NHS. Narrative analysis of ten in-depth interviews with women chief executives revealed six dilemmas within their presentation of stories of „crafted selves‟. Original findings included: the role of the „corporate husband‟ or partner; the importance of male sponsors; the dissonance between personal and organisational values; and evidence that women have chosen to adapt to (and not challenge) the prevailing culture and model of leadership in the NHS. The research reveals the extent of the strength and persistence of a masculinised model of organisational leadership in the NHS, a culture that forms the context to these gendered stories of leadership in difficult times.


Original languageEnglish
  • University of Birmingham
Publication statusPublished - 2009