The unasked questions are always the most interesting ones. The question of where all the men are in HR wouldn’t have been asked at one time. ‘HR’ or ‘Personnel’ was a female dominated profession for “obvious reasons” wasn’t it? HR was largely about administration and so close to secretarial work, it was where people went when they were feeling teary and upset, and it was fundamentally about feelings or transactional processes rather than real business outcomes. That wasn’t the kind of work that most men would want to get involved with and, anyway, it is where a woman’s touch was needed. If there was only one woman on a leadership team or Board people would have assumed, perhaps with some confidence, that she was the HR Director. Perhaps they still do.
All of the HR Departments that I have worked with have been majority female and some of them with men making up as little as 10% or 20% of the whole function. People in the business line I have worked with have freely admitted to being surprised to learn that their new HR contact is male with some of them even going on to assume that I’m gay (I’m not). The concept of a heterosexual man in HR is still something that people seem surprised by at anything other than Director level.
I also need to make clear that I’m not advocating some kind of positive action campaign to increase the downtrodden white male heterosexuals of this World. I’m not even trying to suggest that a UK profession that is 70% female (e.g., the CIPD membership) is in some way a bad thing or a problem that requires a solution. I am simply fascinated both by what gives rise to this fact and, if the Personnel world I described above has been consigned to the history books, why the gender balance still seems so skewed?
I want to hear from you why you think so many HR professionals are female. Do you think it is an issue for us or not and, if it is, what we should do about it?