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Dr Valerie Bevan

Formerly at Lancaster University

Valerie Bevan


Honorary Teaching Fellow, Lancaster University Management School

As Honorary / Visiting Teaching Fellow in the Management School, I contribute to workshops and methods clinics as part of the Doctoral programme with Professor Caroline Gatrell1 and Professor Mark Easterby-Smith. I am also working with Caroline on publications related to my research.

Member Advisory Board to the Critical Studies Research Group at Durham University.

Chair British Society for Microbial Technology

The BSMT is a not-for-profit organisation of microbiologists working mainly in the NHS and Public Health England (formerly the Health Protection Agency) as healthcare scientists and medical microbiologists. The society's aim is to promote an exchange of information on laboratory practices in clinical microbiology. Founded in 1985, I became a member shortly after and am now having a second term as chair. The main outputs from the society are scientific symposia, the most recent being in May 2013 on the Microbiology of Normally Sterile Sites. The next will be held in Sheffield in October on the Microbiology of the Compromised Host.



Additional Information

Research Interests

Women in healthcare science - what’s the problem?

Gender issues in the workplace aren’t always obvious or clear cut and research has long suggested that women are subtly disadvantaged in science in general. My research sets out to understand why this might be and to identify ways in which some of the difficulties women face and can potentially be addressed.

By adopting a feminist perspective and interviewing a range of both women and men in healthcare science, subtle differences in attitudes which may contribute to the underachievement of women in the healthcare science sector have been pinpointed. These accounts indicate that women have fewer opportunities than their male counterparts and how women’s home lives (and not just because of caring responsibilities) are vital in influencing their work lives. These accounts highlight female under-representation in senior posts which contrasts markedly with their majority representation at junior levels.

Identifying Workplace Discrimination

Using an in-depth interview process some of the subtle sex discrimination within the workplace has been evaluated, with practices that are generally regarded as being both normal and natural – to the extent that even those subjected to it don’t fully realise its impact or extent.

The interviews reveal patterns of behaviour which show that men support other men in their work while excluding women from the decision-making process and that men in general tend not to engage in support work, leaving that to their female colleagues. Traits such as confidence or assertiveness, which are perceived to be more widely associated with men, appear to be valued more highly than team working and what is often termed ‘soft’ management skills perceived as more characteristic of women.

Analysis of the transcripts reveals that men subtly treat women as inferior and that women, accepting this as the norm, tend not to challenge this status quo: the use of language (including referring to women by such terms as ‘girls’ or ‘the female community’) reinforces the underlying acceptance that women are better suited to a role as subordinates rather than managers.

Where Next?

So where do these findings lead? Such studies indicate the depth and mechanisms of perceived roles within the workplace, and can be used to feed in to policy making and contribute to a wider knowledge and understanding of gender balance and relationships within the healthcare science sector and beyond.

Furthermore, by adopting an explicitly feminist approach it is hoped to challenge the taken-for-granted current position and to encourage women to ask questions of themselves, their roles and their bosses. The findings from the research add weight to a requirement for pressure from both women and men to influence policy makers to make positive changes to the gender balance in healthcare science, and in particular, to inspire women to seek, challenge and achieve change


Sociology perspectives came late to me and I gained a PhD from LancasterUniversity in Management Learning and Leadership with Dr Caroline Gatrell1 as my supervisor (Bevan 2009): Positioning Women in Science: Knowing her Place. I am an example of some of the women in my research, although that wasn’t planned or expected when I started it. My research has led  to a publication with Mark Learmonth2 as co-author (Bevan and Learmonth 2013):  ‘I Wouldn’t Say it’s Sexism, Except That … It’s All These Little Subtle Things’: Healthcare Scientists’ Accounts of Gender in Healthcare Science Laboratories http://sss.sagepub.com/content/43/1/136.Also underway is a book with Caroline Gatrell: (Bevan V and Gatrell C): Knowing her Place: Positioning Women in Science in a contract with Edward Elgar to be included in the New Horizons in Management series.I have also had several articles published in The Biomedical Scientist, the professional publication for news and science articles for biomedical scientists.

For many years, I worked in public sector healthcare laboratories including in the NHS and Health Protection Agency as a microbiologist, biomedical scientist and ultimately a senior manager and laboratory director developing an interest in women’s issues which broadened into wider equality and diversity matters.  I started my career in healthcare science by taking the professional examinations of the IBMS and then gained an MSc in Applied Immunology from BrunelUniversity in 1983.

My perspective began to change in 2000 when I resumed management studies part-time at YorkUniversity with Mark Learmonth as my supervisor and became fascinated by ‘critical management’.  I began to doubt the positivist assumptions of science by which I had previously lived without much questioning and discovered that science and management were able to be challenged by those who thought critically. I also ‘discovered’ qualitative research and the gratification of being able to write in the first person.

Developing an understanding of professional power, patriarchy and gender helped me become aware of the power that the medical profession exerts over laboratory workers like me, and I explored the gendered professional relationships within laboratories in my dissertation for an MA (Bevan 2003). Subsequently writing my PhD, I became interested in how women are held back from progressing, and again learned new concepts to help me challenge the unfairness I saw about me.

It has been satisfying to find fulfilling areas of work on the periphery of science where I have been able to use my ‘relational’ skills, and, in my 50s, was able to extend myself in new academic interests and challenges.



1 Caroline Gatrell http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/lums/people/all/caroline-gatrell/ is Director of Doctoral Programmes at Lancaster University Department of Management Learning and Leadership. With a background in the health service, Caroline’s research centres on sociologies of work, health and family, examining how employed parents manage work-life balance through analysing personal and everyday lives. She undertakes these investigations through theoretically driven, empirical research focusing on the maternal body; masculinities, and the gendering of management practices.


2 Professor Mark Learmonth http://www.dur.ac.uk/business/faculty/staff/profile/?id=9121 is Professor of Organisation Studies at DurhamUniversity in the DurhamBusinessSchool, having previously worked at the Universities of Nottingham and York. Prior to his academic career, he spent 17 years in healthcare management. He has published in journals including Academy of Management Review, British Journal of Management, Human Relations, Journal of Management Studies, Organization, Organization Studies, Public Administration, Social Science & Medicine and Sociology of Health & Illness.

Thesis Title

Positioning women in science: knowing her place

PhD Thesis in Management
Learning and Leadership

Lancaster University

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