This week’s letters

Women hindered by more than pay

I can relate to your article Women in HR lose out on pay and promotion, in
lots of ways, but I believe the problem goes far deeper (News, 7 January).
Length of service and age can also be huge obstacles for HR professionals,
particularly women.

I joined the profession at the age of 38, initially in the role of personnel
administrator, having had a secretarial background in the company.

The personnel manager at the time valued my interpersonal skills and
enthusiasm for being part of a team that cared about the business, and I
happily sat in that role for 18 months before being promoted to personnel

I was working for a large financial services company with more than 700 call
centre staff. My energy and passion for success drove me to succeed, and my reputation
went before me. I changed many things for the better – particularly in
behavioural training and recruitment.

Then, as all big companies do, we restructured the personnel team and
recruited a male HR controller – and boy did he control. He turned us into an
HR team, which was the right decision to make – but I became the sole survivor.

The controller told me that if I was to continue to survive, I’d have to
study for the CIPD qualification. It took four years on a part-time basis,
during which the HR controller left the company. I then worked under a
succession of male managers.

Despite more than 20 years’ experience within the company, I decided I
didn’t fit in with the new HR culture. The team expanded with the addition of
lots of young graduates and I felt undervalued. So, I moved to a company that
was almost 10 years behind in terms of HR strategies.

I have now been in this role for four years and still hold the position of
HR officer. I have experienced two managers and I am the longest serving member
of the team, the eldest and the most respected by the main bulk of employees.

My boss is now recruiting HR staff and is targeting young women in their 20s
– so here we go again.

I have raised a formal grievance with my manager, because although we get on
well, I think he is ignoring my expertise. At 47 years of age, I feel
threatened. Not only do women lose out on pay and promotion in HR, we are also
hindered by our length of service and age.

Name and address supplied

Stress not confined to the workplace

There are undoubtedly drivers of stress in the workplace and these are
highlighted in your front page article (News, 14 January).

But what was not mentioned, is the fact that in my experience work-related
stress is rarely in attributable solely to the workplace. It is nearly always
influenced by domestic and personal circumstances. The danger in ignoring this
is that it will become accepted wisdom that stress is solely an employment
problem to be remedied by increasing legislation and placing an unfair burden
on employers.

This will do little to tackle the other causes, which appear harder to
define and often seem to lie somewhere within society, individual expectations
and personal choices. It may be the case that because the workplace often makes
tangible demands on people operating in close proximity to each other, it
becomes the forum in which the symptoms of stress become more manifest.

However, although individuals may find a voice or a subconscious hook for
their issues at work, this belies the fact that in many cases, the real cause
lies elsewhere.

An examination of this complex issue and why it appears to be such a modern
affliction is definitely required. It is foolhardy to assume that yet more
legislation will prevent stress, when the roots of stress are not yet fully

Jane Thompson
HR adviser, RS Components UK

HSE will create a checklist mentality

Having worked in employee welfare for the past 18 years, I welcome the move
by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to place tough new stress management
standards on employers this year.

However, I am concerned that by simply imposing a new set of regulations,
the HSE will create a ‘checklist mentality’ among employers, leading them to
tackle stress from a regulatory point of view, rather than addressing the wider

Effective stress management is best driven from board-level down. Senior
managers must devote time and resources to looking at the causes of stress –
assessing how and why stress is created and how to reduce it.

Until a cultural change takes place at board level that acknowledges stress
as a legitimate concern, effective stress management will never be achieved.

The move by the HSE is certainly a step in the right direction, but we risk
reinforcing ‘sticking plaster’ measures against stresses that are currently
prevalent in the workplace, rather than aiming to prevent them in the first

Bruce Greenhalgh
Employee assistance manager, Accenture HR Services

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