As HR professionals, diversity should be our watchword. We are taught to abhor discriminatory attitudes, take umbrage at the slightest hint of prejudice and fight for the rights of disadvantaged employees and candidates. We are scrutinised at every turn for unfair practices or unreasonable behaviour.
Interesting then that the latest statistics via XpertHR tell us that the HR profession in 2011/12 is three-quarters female. How diverse, non-discriminatory and fair can that be? Just how have we got into the position where we’re writing diversity policies but not for us?
These questions formed a fascinating conversation on Twitter recently when I happened to remark to Michael Carty, Benchmarking Editor of XpertHR that these statistics were borne out by my own experiences. I attend a number of events where HR professionals gather and always notice the distinct lack of men in the room. At a recent CIPD event, male attendees formed less than 10% of the numbers attending. This seems to be the experience of many others in the profession.
The conversation on Twitter highlighted the belief that our profession is 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.
Coincidentally, we have also ended up in a position where HR is arguably under represented at Board level and where the introduction of female quotas on Boards is being considered. By refusing to address the gender imbalance in our profession, are we effectively cutting off our noses?
What’s the answer to achieving a more diverse HR profession? We could start by adopting a more open approach to recruiting and by recognising that different business backgrounds can add value rather than assuming that a non-HR background is a disadvantage. I’d be interested to hear other people’s experiences and thoughts on the matter. Huge thanks to @MJCarty & @Lornais for the Twitter conversations.