While many HR departments are at the vanguard of confronting discrimination in their organisations, research suggests that, ironically, gender pay gaps still exist in the profession.
Information provider Consult GEE spoke to HR departments in more than 400 UK organisations on behalf of Pay Magazine.
It found that while only 27% of those working in HR and payroll are male, men hold a disproportionately high level of the most senior jobs with 39% of all directorships and 37% of senior manager posts.
It also found women hold a disproportionately high level of the lowest paid jobs – all of the HR employees on less than £15,000 per year are women, for example.
Other findings show that more than half (56%) of women in HR earn less than £30,000 while only 31% of men working in the function earn less than that figure.
And half of male directors earn more than £60,000 compared with only 20% of female directors, according to the survey.
Cherry Park, an analyst at Consult GEE, said: “It is ironic that the departments which are meant to be the front line in tackling sexual discrimination in the workplace have to struggle so hard to close the gender gap in wages and status of their own departmental employees.”
However, CIPD reward adviser Charles Cotton said there are a number of dynamics that skew these statistics.
The figures do not take into account bonuses which are playing an increasingly important part in making up HR pay packets, Cotton said. According to the most recent CIPD research, 23% of HR professionals have a bonus element attached to their salary. This figures rise to 58% if workers in the public and voluntary sectors are excluded.
Cotton said bonuses are important because a higher proportion of men tend to be recruited from outside organisations and are able to negotiate their bonuses at the recruitment stage.
Women HR professionals are more likely to stay with an organisation, perhaps because of family commitments and, therefore, may have a different bonus structure to many men, he said.
Other reasons why women are less likely to be in the higher wage brackets are because many take career breaks to start a family, or work in the lower paid public sector where flexible working and family-friendly policies are in place.
Cotton also thinks the type of specialisms men and women are likely to choose may affect the pay differential. “Reward, a well-paid specialism, is more of a male pursuit and training and development, where there are more opportunities, is an area preferred by women,” he said.
Other specialist areas that are well-paid are HR systems and HR partner-type roles, according to Hugo Tucker, manager director of recruitment firm OrtusHR.
He refutes there is obvious pay discrimination in HR. “Because there are a higher proportion of men in senior positions, their pay will be higher on average,” he said. “But if you compare men and women in the middle and low income bands, I don’t think you will find any difference.”
Tucker also questioned Consult GEE’s figure of £62,253 for an average HR director’s salary. “This figure is pretty low and must contain public sector salaries. A true blue-chip HR director can expect a basic salary of between £80,000 and £120,000,” he said.