Is It Really A Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus Thing?

Just finished reading Ben Eubanks’ blog on men in HR for his “National Geographic Exclusive” and it struck me enough to stop what I was doing and start writing.  Not that I don’t LIKE writing a session description for a total rewards seminar, but…

Good question to explore – why is it that men have traditionally shied away from human resources?  Is it because back in the day “personnel” was purely administrative and considered a short step away from being a secretary, which was typically a woman due to the organizational power structures in the ‘50s?  Is it because, as Ben said, that the compliance part of the job tends to attract more females than males?

Now, I know that Ben is not trying to stereotype and he states that in his remarks.

But, it gets me thinking. 

Personally, I think a lot of women gravitate to HR because of the “friend factor,” meaning that HR folks have to do a lot of listening and dispensing of advice, which is some of what friends do for each other.  Friends also take the good with the bad and roll with the punches and will put up with most things, just as HR does.  Could possibly be a girl thing….could possibly be not; research has found that women’s focus on relationships is what leadership truly needs today to get ahead.

Ben says,

“I don’t want to lay any blanket statements on the ladies out there, but my little experience seems to point to most of them focusing on compliance and how to keep things “safe.” More of the males, however, seem to be focused on how to keep the goals moving forward and holding onto the strategic focus…”

Rather than this being a “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” issue, could the fact that women dominate the HR landscape be because of:

(a) the lasting legacy of administrative work in HR, which has chased away a lot of men,

(b) because women like the relationship part and so gravitate towards HR as it fulfills a need, or

(c) because the work itself has evolved into a compliance-centric model and needs a burning platform.

I’m kinda of going with (a), (b) and (c) here. 

Think about how HR has changed–or not changed–in the past 20 or 30 years.  Big, big focus on compliance.  Big, big, focus on protecting the organization from employee litigation.  Big, big focus on cost control.  Lots of administration. Lots of paperwork.  Lots of women in mid-level roles looking for balance.

To me, it really has to do with society’s view of women and their roles.  It’s not necessarily because HR tends to be compliance-bound.  A great article I found on regarding gender and leadership says,

“Other reasons women ascend to leadership positions less frequently than men are that women most frequently inhabit managerial positions with little power , little advancement opportunity, or where other women are so rare that their presence is attributed to their sexuality or affirmative action…outside their paid jobs, women usually have significant responsibility for the care of their families and home, thereby depleting the energy they might otherwise devote to the pursuit of leadership positions of consequence…”

Now, granted this article is several years old, but I don’t believe a whole lot has changed in society quite yet, athough I do believe the sea change will be hitting hard come 2018-2020 when over 50% of the workforce will be women.  

It’s interesting that men are in the minority in HR, but yet may be perceived as the go-getters and strategic focusers.  It’s probably because of the unconscious bias of society toward working women.  Or, it could be the function of HR.  Or, it could be simply one thing…

We women are tired from all that multitasking.  Coffee, anyone?


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