Fixer: HR must start to tackle the profession’s gender imbalance

It’s crucial that we try to attract a more diverse pool of candidates 

Regarding the ‘our team is dominated by women’ question posed in a recent issue, I just wanted to add that this really is a major issue for the HR profession, and it’s no good pointing to other poor examples – we are supposed to be the exemplars in issues of gender and equality. When will HR start the debate about how it needs to reflect the wider working population and attract a much more diverse pool of candidates?

You are absolutely right. The gender imbalance is a big problem for the people profession and urgently needs to be addressed or it will be seen as a case of ‘do as I say, not what I do’ – and we will not be taken seriously. When originally I trained as a physics teacher, I had the opposite problem: I was a woman working in a male-dominated environment. It wasn’t until I moved into HR that I became aware of the issue.

We need to make the HR profession more attractive to all sections of the population – not just with regards to the male/female split. This is not about being politically correct; it’s about widening the opportunities for people whose skills could benefit the profession. We don’t just need the traditional ‘soft’ skills associated with HR, we need individuals who enjoy and are talented in problem-solving, negotiation, maths, project management, change management and psychology. If we can sell it on those terms – whether internally to managers looking for a career change or to students – we are more likely to get a wider interest in the profession than we have now.  

So how do we do this?  We must reach out to encourage the wider community to consider HR as a career – for example, by speaking at school careers events or college open days – particularly where we have role models that match the more diverse pool we are seeking.