Can men make it in HR profession?

I’ve been working in HR for a
year and am struck by the fact it is a very female-dominated profession.
Someone told me that over two-thirds of HR professionals are female. Do you
think it is harder for men to make headway in this profession?

Peter Sell, joint
managing director, DMS Consultancy

When you look at the boards of
most private companies you will see that there is a much higher percentage of
men in senior HR roles than women so there is hope for you yet. Another point
to consider is that if you analyse the career path of women in HR, it is likely
that a high number came through the secretarial/admin route. They often do not
have the qualifications or motivation to further their career seeing family
responsibilities as equally important.

There is still a perception
outside the profession, that personnel is about welfare, and women typically
undertake this type of role. If as a man you have the drive, ability, personal
skills and qualifications required for a career in personnel, then you have as
much chance as anyone does.

Johanna Simons, HR
consultant, Macmillan Davies Hodes

HR is not a career that men
necessarily join at entry level. A fairly large proportion of men join after
spending time in a line role.

In the longer term, once you
have gained some experience you will find that average salaries for men within
HR, as with most other occupations at a senior level, have continued to
outstrip that of their female colleagues – although I am sure most women in the
profession are hoping this will be addressed over the next few years.

It used to be said that HR was
an underpaid profession but advertisements for HR directors now regularly
feature in the executive salaries sections. This is because leading
organisations are importing expertise to raise HR capabilities and equip them
for their new partnership role and are also moving more people from the line
into HR.

If you want to ensure your
success, you will need to make sure that you have a good mentor and career
development plan which will give you a broad HR background.  You should also make time to develop
relation-ships across the company in order to increase your overall business
understanding and perhaps consider spending time in an operational management

Peter Lewis, consultant,

The HR profession is
increasingly seen as a worthwhile career for women as much as for men. As there
are more female HR directors than ever before, there is a perception that the
glass ceiling for women does not exist to the same extent in HR as in other

This perception means talented
women will be attracted to HR more than to some other professions, especially
as the barriers to entry are not as high as, say, law or accountancy.

However, there are still plenty
of men at senior level in the profession, both as operational generalists and
specialists in all sectors – remuneration, employment law, HR systems, to name
but a few.

The one exception to this rule
is when an organisation trying to recruit a new top management team from
scratch, is keen to ensure it contains a representative number of women. The
presence of a disproportionate number of good female candidates among the HR
applicants could mean that, in these instances there may well be a preference
for appointing a female head of HR.

Whatever your gender, the key
to getting on is to be clear about the types and roles of organisations to
which you are best suited and identify those whose strengths fit them for
future success.

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