“[The HR profession is perceived to be] mainly female because of the traditional administration route in. If we assume that it’s essential to have come up through the ranks (following the traditional route of HR – administrator, advisor, manager and so on), are we then automatically placing other candidates at a disadvantage? When we add this blinkered hiring strategy to the fact that an administrative role is more likely to be carried out by a woman, we wind up with a profession dominated by women. [...] By refusing to address the gender imbalance in our profession, are we effectively cutting off our noses?”
What’s your take on these questions? How closely do they resonate with your own experience of the HR profession? And if you think action needs to be taken, what would be the best approach? Please share your views via the comments box below, or get in touch via Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.
Tough questions on the gender profile of the HR profession in 2012
The tough questions regarding the gender profile of the HR profession listed above (and a host of others) are raised in an excellent and truly thought-provoking blog post from UK HR consultant Katherine Connolly on her Keeping HR Simple blog, entitled People Who Live In Glass Houses.
I would urge every XpertHR reader to head over to Katherine’s blog to read this excellent post in full.
Nearly three-fifths of UK HR professionals have worked in admin
Katherine’s contention that administration is the traditional route into HR appears to be backed up by research from XpertHR.
Administration is the main non-HR business function in which UK HR professionals have worked (XpertHR Benchmarking subscription required), XpertHR Benchmarking research reveals. Nearly three-fifths (57.9%) of HR professionals have previously worked in administrative functions (see chart, above). This figure rises to just under two-thirds (64.7%) of female respondents to this survey.
The next most common non-HR business functions in which UK HR professionals have worked are retail (29.1% of all respondents to this question) and customer services (27.8%).
The UK HR profession is three-quarters female in 2011/2012
Katherine’s post was written in response to a recent post on this blog, looking at XpertHR benchmarking data on the gender profile of HR.
This is in line with earlier analysis from XpertHR Salary Surveys, which suggested that the UK HR profession was 75.8% female in 2010/2011.
This post gave rise to a fascinating and wide-ranging Twitter discussion on the gender profile of the HR profession – and the underlying causes of this state of affairs – between me, Katherine and Lorna Leeson. Katherine has captured a number of the key points from this debate in her post, including her anecdotal observations as regards “the distinct lack of men in the room” at “events where HR professional gather.”
‘Diversity should be our watchword’
“As HR professionals, diversity should be our watchword,” says Katherine in her post.
Interestingly, very similar sentiments are expressed in another post from an HR blogger examining data relating to gender diversity published this week. In a truly excellent piece of data analysis entitled Women and Boards, UK HR Director Alison Chisnell looks behind the headlines around Cranfield’s recent research on the numbers of women in UK boardrooms.
Although not solely focusing on HR, Alison’s points on diversity, culture and the key role played by “the current leadership” are all relevant to the debate on the gender profile of HR.
Diversity matters hugely, but it’s not just about making sure that there is a strong representation of women at senior levels, it is about enabling people who are from all types of background to thrive and succeed. Giving individuals the chance to shine and then appointing the best person for the job. In my view, if only certain types of individuals are able to succeed and be promoted in an organisation, it is not so much a gender issue as a cultural one…and there isn’t any amount of statistics and external measurement that will improve that culture, if the current leadership is not bought into effecting change.
Head over to Alison’s HR Juggler blog to read this post in full.
Is HR failing to practise what it preaches on gender diversity? Have your say!
So, is HR failing to practise what it preaches on gender diversity? And if so, what should HR be doing to change the situation?
I would love to get your input on these key questions relating to gender diversity in the HR profession.
More on HR careers and gender diversity in HR
The XpertHR survey of HR careers in 2011/2012 is based on responses from 668 UK HR professionals. Subscribers to XpertHR Benchmarking can drill down into the complete benchmarking data from the survey.
- HR Careers 2011/2012 XpertHR Benchmarking subscribers can access the complete results data from this survey.
- Benchmarking HR careers in 2011/2012 Read more about the key findings from this survey.
- HR careers survey 2011: Qualifications versus business experience Read XpertHR’s detailed analysis of the survey findings.
- Is ‘pink-collar ghetto’ an apt term for the HR profession? FemaleIs HR really a pink-collared ghetto? This question is posed by US HR blogger Naomi Bloom in a recent post on her In Full Bloom blog. In this post, Bloom provides an overview of her experience of the US HR profession, from 1967 through to the present day.
- Five ways to find the benchmarking data you need How to find exactly the data you need from XpertHR Benchmarking.