This week’s letters

A token male voice in an old girl’s network

Being white, male and of middling years, reasonably fit for my age, without
any real religious affiliations and with a liking for the noble game of rugby
union, I find myself feeling very excluded when it comes to the issue of
‘diversity’ and ‘equal opportunities’.

Reading your articles on diversity by Quentin Reade (News, 6 May) and
‘unmodern apprenticeships’ by Ross Wigham (News, 6 May), I find it totally
unsurprising that there is no mention of discrimination against men.

Having been the ‘token male’ in several HR departments during my career, I
am well aware that the ‘old girl’s network’ is more pervasive than any ‘old
school tie club’ ever was. There is a real lack of motivation in the HR
profession, as well as the social and political climate, to deal with it.
Surely the concept of equality implies equal treatment for all?

It is, unfortunately, no longer the case that equal opportunities exist. It
has been transformed into a quest for the utopian political fantasy of ‘equal
outcomes’. If Personnel Today readers would care to stop and think a moment
they will find that the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has 16 members of
which three (yes, three) are male. The EOC may like to consider that the
concept of ‘do what I say, not what I do’ does not form the basis for any sound
management or HR policy. The fear of discrimination claims, the potential
swingeing financial penalties, legal costs and adverse publicity will continue
to ensure that ‘protected’ groups, including women, will continue to be

The question of gender imbalance is not a new one. When will paternity
rights be brought into line with maternity rights? I would have loved to have
had the option of staying at home with my children, my job protected, rather
than having to work horrendous hours and be a stranger in my own home. Had I
opted to do so, on the same timescale as my wife, I would have lost my job!

The so-called equal pay gap is another area of concern. Anyone with
knowledge of social trends and the labour market knows that married men work
more overtime than married women, who tend to opt for flexible working patterns
(including reduced hours).

A recent study by the London School of Economics indicated that women choose
careers that allow them flexible working patterns. Men also tend to dominate in
the ‘glass cellar’ occupations that are dirty, physically demanding, unpleasant
or dangerous such as firefighting, sewer work, forestry, fishing, etc, etc,
which, as a result attract a higher premium.

Market forces dictate levels of reward in the UK. And if women were paid 20
per cent less than men, there would be no men employed. Employers would have
slashed wage costs by 20 per cent many years ago, and annihilated their
competitors as a result. Simple economics.

We seem to have a whole raft of gender-biased ‘initiatives’ such as ‘women
into science’ and ‘women into engineering’, yet nothing for men. Patricia
Hewitt recently announced yet another initiative, this time to attract female
science graduates back into the workforce. Hewitt wanted women to start, remain
and succeed in science. So much for family-friendly policies.

There are, of course, no equivalent initiatives to attract men into
traditionally strong female bastions. We never see, for example, ‘men into
primary school teaching’ or ‘men into nursing’.

All in all, the area of equality and diversity is in a fairly unsatisfactory
state of affairs. It is, once again, more to do with promoting a political
ideology, and particular favoured pressure groups, than making business sense.

John Spartan
Head of HR, JBMS

Apostrophes and the men in grey suits

I hate to be pedantic, but shouldn’t your newly-formed HR Directors Forum
read HR Directors’ Forum? The apostrophe goes after the word as it’s a plural
noun (News, 6 May). I guess HR directors aren’t educated today to wrestle with
the finer points of grammar. However, one thing hasn’t changed, judging from
your publicity pose, and that’s the fact that HR directors are still mainly men
in grey suits, like politicians.

Mary Louise Brown
Lecturer in HRM/OB and departmental research co-ordinator, Department of Human
Resource Management, Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University

Ed’s reply: We used a bit of editorial licence when naming our new
initiative the HR Directors Club without the apostrophe. While I appreciate the
value and popularity of the apostrophe, we thought it made the logo for our new
club look clumsy. The English language is very much a living thing and we’re
with the modernisers on this one.

By the way, HR directors are certainly not all male and the proof is the
number of women signing up to be members of our club. It is the case, however,
that the two speakers for the first event – Michael Portillo MP and the CBI’s
Digby Jones – just happen to be men.

The absent-minded will exploit SARS situation

I was surprised to see that 77 per cent of HR practitioners believe that
workers who visit SARS-affected regions should be required to stay away from
work for 10 days (News barometer, 6 May).

I would be interested to know how many respondents took the line that if the
Government was letting individuals back into the country from these regions
without any health checks, that HR departments should get their staff back to
work as soon as possible, while at the same time emphasising that if people did
feel unwell they should report to their doctor/hospital immediately.

We need as many staff at work as possible, supporting management and
delivering a first-class product to the customer. We shouldn’t be giving staff
more reasons to stay away where the risks are small.

Colin Rodden MCIPD, MCMI
The Mosaic Initiative

Those at the top need to shoulder the blame

Your editorial (News, 13 May) reflected, quite properly, the parlous state
of much of British management and the essential steps needed to rectify the
threat to corporate performance.

You mention the top five issues: management, performance management,
leadership, coping with change, and people management. All of these require a
mix of both technical skills and soft skills, or personal development.

Many of the HR directors and vice-presidents that I speak to, do have a
vision for rectifying this situation by concentrating on soft skills in the
areas that the report identifies, namely, improved training, coaching and
mentoring, support and counselling. But their chief executives and boards lack
the experience and wisdom to understand the enormous performance benefits that
come from soft skills development.

Blame instead inadequate boards with directors having too little
appreciation of the HR function and human performance.

Training consultancies and performance coaches like myself also need to help
the beleaguered HR director by providing improved measurements of cost benefits
where soft skills are being rolled out. This will help them sell these urgently
needed interventions to their colleagues. Now, there’s a challenge.

Angus McLeod, PhD
Director, Into Changes

No statistics needed to prove soft option works

Alison Gill says that those promoting creativity and better management of
people should produce data to support their proposals (Letters, 6 May).

The implication is that there is ‘data’ supporting the practice of crushing
creativity. There isn’t. ‘Hard’ management approaches like business process
re-engineering and mergers nearly always fail, the research tells us. By
contrast, motivated workers out-perform others in every study that has looked
into the matter, going back to Hawthorne.

If even the readers of Personnel Today don’t know this, God help us. Or
perhaps St Luke will.

Philip Whiteley
Co-author, Unshrink the Workplace

Comments are closed.