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Is the Australian HR profession a “pink ghetto”?

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HC Online | 15 Aug 2016, 10:00 AM Agree 0
Are women overrepresented compared to men in the Australian HR industry? We spoke to the experts to find out
  • Eric Cooper FAHRI | 15 Aug 2016, 12:38 PM Agree 0
    I have the good fortune to have spent over 40 years in HR .The function was largely staffed by males. Some organisations did have a more diverse mix male/female however the percentages were opposite to that which exists today.HR Managers and Directors were mainly guys.
    Much of the change has emerged from the drive to have gender equity, the rise of Human Resource Degree and Masters courses and the growth of HR as a meaningful business contributor driven by legislation and compliance and law and employment relations making an interesting and challenging occupation,one of the best roles available .A huge increase in female HR graduates I believe is a key factor. Just attend the annual AHRI Conferences and count male attendees.Not a bad thing as capability and capacity to do the role is key.I think there are just so many talented females now in this sector. Again 40 years ago we did not care too much about what gender you were it was , at least in the major multinationals, how good you were at your job.The industrial relations scene has also dramatically changed with the reduction in,and amalgamation of,many Unions.This in turn has reduced the opportunities for Industrial Relations roles which also had a large male contingent.
    Its a changing world and HR has a much higher profile, and is an attractive career role.I also recall a study which revealed that females were better naturally at administrative tasks than males and HR at all levels has a high degree od Administration so another reason for success in HR. The opportunity is development to get these folk to the top team table .
    • Catherine | 27 Aug 2018, 10:16 AM Agree 0
      Hi Eric,
      Your perspective is interesting because you honestly believe there were few woman in HR 40 years ago. As a woman of that vintage I can assure you there were many, many of us. We were mostly relegated to "administration" roles. We are not "naturally better" at admin roles, we were just rarely promoted above that status. I studied Industrial Relations, which made me seem like a very rare bird. I also could not get a fulltime IR role for about 15 years. Until about 10 years ago, the far majority of senior roles went to men - many of them who were much younger and less experienced than the women who reported to them.
  • HR Dude | 15 Aug 2016, 02:37 PM Agree 0
    I'd like to see another cut of this data. What roles do we see more women in within the broad spectrum of HR? Is it the 'soft and fluffy' that tends to have more women? What about industrial and employment relations?

    Another question that instantly jumped out at me was the employment lifecycle for female employees. Is it a case that it is easier to manage family commitments in HR than the other business units? HR can be far less deadline orientated than some areas of a business (not without deadlines of course, just different). This might be a small pull, but overtime it concentrates more females in the sector. A similar effect occurs in some government departments, where we have much higher amounts of females than males.

    I'd also be interested to know how many self-employed business consultants doing HR-like work are female. My guess would be far less than males.
  • Steve Rowe | 15 Aug 2016, 05:39 PM Agree 0
    Affirmative action in favour of women has been going on at the senior levels in HR for years. I would estimate, and I have had this confirmed by my search contacts, that at least 2 out of 3 of the larger generalist HR roles in corporate australia these days are effectively "women only". The flow is as follows: 1. Board/ CEO rightly embarassed about the lack of female representation in senior leadership - particularly in the listed space. 2. CEO (typically male) - expresses to headhunter a "strong preference" for a woman. 3. Headhunter, already looking at a market largely populated by women hardly bothers to approach male talent unless is a "wild card". 4. Another woman appointed to a senior HRD level. I am a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion and gender balance in particular. But what's happening in top end HR is actually undermining the diversity cause, the women's cause and ultimately the credibility of HR. The buck though must stop with the "pale, stale, males" that initiate the recruitment in the first place.
  • CK | 16 Aug 2016, 02:23 AM Agree 0
    I only see a problem if men and women don't have an equal opportunity to enter the HR profession. Are men being systematically excluded from joining? I don't think so. If preference for whatever reason leads one gender to have more representation in a given profession than another, what's the big deal if there isn't a perfect 50/50 balance. Ultimately shouldn't the value the talent brings to the organization matter more than their biological sex?
    • RG | 25 Aug 2016, 12:39 PM Agree 0
      While I can see your point about preference, I think we also need to be careful to use this as a reason not to push for more gender diverse HR team. The same argument about preference has been said on women entering traditionally male-dominated professions like engineering and science. We do encourage women to consider these professions despite the perception that it is not what most women are interested in.
  • Caught on the wrong side | 27 Dec 2017, 12:22 AM Agree 0
    It is fairly well accepted that HR mid and senior roles are used to bump up female representation in management roles to assist the diversity KPI on business reports.
    Figures generally report that approx. 85% of mid to senior HR roles go to females.
    Males are rarely shortlisted or interviewed.
    The only problem is that this this works in opposition of the whole reason that diversity is a competitive advantage.
    To have a balance in perspectives and experiences includes those that are gained from gender differences.
    Thinking that there is ideally a 50/50 split in gender in organisations, serving the humanistic needs would ideally done by a balance of genders.
    It is also HR departments and agencies who are facilitating age discrimination that is a well accepted and disguised fact in recruitment currently.
    How you would be fairing if you are an over 50 male HR professional.
    Well you have a double whammy.
    The fact that we have an aging workforce would logically lead you to think that there would be value in maturity in HR.
    The lost competence and competitive advantage through HR facilitated discrimination has bottom line impacts that may well soon create a major event where this will come under the microscope in some jurisdiction, including the the anger that shareholders will have when they realise the bottom line impacts that this has.
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