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, DMSConsultancy

l 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

l 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 role.

Peter Lewis, consultant, Chiumento

l 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 professions.

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.

For six years I have been working in HR for a large organisation as one of many HR managers. I have been asked to join a very small company as its first personnel manager. I’m attracted to the challenge of setting up an HR department but I’m conscious there will be no other staff to support me. Is this a smart career move? Will setting up an HR operation look good on my CV, or will the small scale of the company and lack of people management involved count against me?

Peter Sell, joint managing director, DMSConsultancy

l Your first consideration should be what interests you the most. Moving to a small company could look good on your CV depending on the scope of the role. You are more likely to be able to contribute to the business and make an impact.

Does status matter to you? With no support you could end up doing everything including the filing. Or it could offer you a chance to build a professional HR function with administration devolved to line managers with scope to concentrate on more strategic issues.

If you relish a challenge, then setting up a professional HR function will give you experience of all aspects of personnel and development. This should give you a list of achievements for your CV and you should have no problem developing your career in either a company environment or possibly into consultancy.

Grant Taylor, HR consultant, Macmillan Davies Hodes

l You must first establish how your role will be seen to contribute to business strategy. If you are setting up an administrative function where you have little strategic input and no staff management, this could reflect badly in the future. However, if the role is part of the senior management team and viewed as an important strategic hire in a growing business, it could prove to be an excellent move.

Moving to a small organisation often gives you the opportunity to use more of your skills, more of the time, and to take a more strategic approach than you probably have until now.

Setting up an HR operation is a good experience, but you need to weigh up the pros and cons on how the role may progress and how this will be reflected on your CV.

Peter Lewis, consultant, Chiumento

l This will increase the scope of your role and responsibility. You will have the challenge of setting things up from scratch and developing and implementing a strategy for HR.

How will this move fit into your career plans? Is this a long term move in which you will grow with the company, or a 2-3 year career stage, with a strong change agenda? Either way you will need to acquire additional skills and you need to be clear how to achieve this.

Being the sole HR person is very different from being one of many. Understanding the ways in which you prefer to work, perhaps using psychometrics, may well help you identify areas of potential difficulty, where you may well need support.

Research the company culture and be clear about what success in this role will look like for you. If you decide to go ahead, work to establish a strong HR presence and review the situation in 18 months’ time, when you should be clearer about your next career step.

Comments are closed.