Is HR a gender ghetto? (Analysis)

Proportion of women in senior HR roles still low
By Claude Balthazard
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/03/2008

The message from the survey is clear: A more even balance in gender representation would be a good thing. But many feel there is an even more important issue for HR — the proportion of women in senior HR positions. Although, overall, there is a strong representation of women in the HR profession, this proportion seems to reverse itself for senior management and executive positions. Although the idea of attracting more men to the profession is not a bad thing, many feel this should not happen at the expense of efforts to break the glass ceiling. Some mention both gender imbalances should be addressed.

There are interesting comments about the role HR has played for women in the corporate environment. Some note how HR has been the main path available to women to attain senior positions while others are concerned HR has become a gender ghetto. Linking both issues, some are concerned rebalancing the gender representation in HR might backfire and lead to fewer career opportunities for women.

There are many comments on the link between gender balance and pay and recognition. Interestingly, the causality is seen to go both ways. Some feel that as more men are attracted to the HR profession, compensation and recognition will increase; others feel that as compensation and recognition for HR professionals increase, more men will be attracted to the profession.

Many link gender representation in HR with fundamental shifts in the profession. Many note the shift to a more strategic perspective, a stronger business orientation and more emphasis on quantification are changing the old stereotypes and making the profession more attractive to men.

Claude Balthazard is director, HR excellence, at the Toronto-based Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Toronto. He can be reached at (416) 923-2324 or cbalthazard@hrpao.org.

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