HR and women, an equation that needs to change
HR needs to be strategic, efficient, deadline conscious and a lot more other things that any other profession requires, albeit in a different way
Weekends are about many things-- but HR talks with friends. But this Sunday, this is what the hot topic became when I decided to catch up with an old friend over a cuppa at CCD. This friend of mine, an MBA (HR) from a premier B-school is a senior HR professional with an IT giant in Mumbai. Perhaps that explains how HR managed to find way into a gossip session dominated by who-is-doing-what talks between two long-lost friends.
A little into the course of our gossip session, she asked about a school-time foe, “Any idea where Aditi is?”
“Not much. She was doing her MBA the last time I talked to her.”
“MBA, in HR?,” was her question.
“Yes. How do you know?”
“Just guessed. That is the first guess you will make when you have worked in HR for seven years. There are so many women around, no? ” Yes. Of course! The sentence so casually uttered pointed towards a well accepted fact. This is a fact so obvious that most of us seem to have grown indifferent towards it. In all the organizations that I have worked with, there have been more women, than men, in HR. Among six of my female friends who went for MBA, at least three took HR, as compared to just one male friend who went for it.
After two hours and two coffees each, we had talked about a lot, most of which I don’t remember, but her two statements on women and the HR equation lingered on:
#1. In HR there are more women than men:
I am doubtful if many people will disagree with this statement. In a 2011 report titled ‘Best Paying Jobs for Women’ Forbes pointed out that 71 per cent of the total HR workforce were women. This difference is evident at the entry level itself. Fewer boys prefer MBA (HR) over domains such as marketing and finance. The traditional belief that women choose softer and less aggressive roles and men prefer more aggressive and metric-driven roles has a lot to do with this disparity. The other way around, this may also be a result of the way employers position this profession. People tend to believe that HR is more about soft skills, planning, schedule and less metric driven work. In the changing scenario, when HR is expected to align itself to the business requirements, this belief doesn’t work anymore. An HR needs to be strategic, efficient, deadline conscious and a lot more other things that any other profession requires, albeit in a different way. Positioning a profile on the basis of the skills required to succeed on that role would go a long way in encouraging men to take HR. This might also help in creating a diverse talent pool.
#2. Men dominate HR in pay and position:
This is an irony of sorts. A CIPD research reveals that only 40 per cent of the HR Directors are women. For a profession that is believed (and factually proved) to be dominated by women, this isn’t a very encouraging number. This CIPD research indicates that when it comes to promotion and salary, men dominate the profession. According to this research, in middle management, an average female HR professional earn £41,000, while their male counterparts earn £49,000. Again, this might be related to the beliefs about the skills of men and women. In an article in Forbes, Susan Strayer, the founder of Exaqueo, writes, “Call it people management, human capital, HR or whatever you want. Whatever it is, it’s not touchy feel-y or emotional. It’s a pure, balance sheet, analyst-watching, performance-driving business necessity.” It is time we start pondering over it. Much better if this could happen in board-rooms and not cafes.