Bad News and Good News for Women in Human Resources

by Michael Haberman on November 3, 2008 · 7 comments


An article in the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 23rd talked about wage disparities. (Link requires subscription.) This is not unusual. The wage disparity between men and women is well documented and much discussed. The potential reasons are many: discrimination, career interruption, and predominately “female” careers among them. What makes this article noteable, however, is that Cari Tuna is writing about the field of Human Resources, where you would expect wages to be more equitable. And here is the bad news.

First an important fact. The majority of human resources professional are women. “About 70% of the country’s 238,000 HR managers and 731,000 HR specialists are women, according to 2007 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” So, you would expect in a field that is predominately female that wages for women would be ahead of men or at least on par. But, “…37 of the 50 highest-paid HR executives at Russell 3000 companies were men, according to a survey of 2007 proxy statements by Equilar, Inc., a California-based executive compensation research firm.” And “The median weekly pay for male HR managers in 2007 was $1,581 – about 47% more than female managers took home. Among rank-and-file employees, men earned $1,037 per week, about 28% more than their female counterparts.”

This is puzzling and there could be any number of reasons. A couple of new ones were suggested in the article, including who is tapped to fill HR exective positions, and the fact that many top HR positions are “combination” positions. A combination position is one such as VPHR and General Counsel. These apparently are staffed more often by men and who are thus paid more.

But so much for the bad news. Now the good news. Next year this is going turn around! If you are in human resources and you are female you have reason to CELEBRATE! With a Democrat controlled congress women in HR are going to benefit from the passage of three compensation acts designed to eliminate “historic discrimination”. With the Paycheck Fairness Act, The Lily Ledbetter Act, and the Equal Pay Act women in human resources (and other professions) will get increases to put them on par with all the men in the profession. Pay disparites, for whatever reason, will be outlawed. Isn’t that great news??? Plan the changes in your budgets now! This means that regardless of location, education, years in the job, and performance everyone in a single job title will be paid the same. It will certainly make compensation systems easier. Of course it might eliminate any incentive to try to get ahead. And the value of a degree and certification will potentially disappear. But who cares? Equality is a good thing.

So celebrate the good news! More money for everyone! Assuming the jobs still exist that is. Guess we will see.
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy Missildine-Martin, SPHR November 3, 2008 at 1:16 pm

This is not helping pay for performance at all! I am all about equal pay for equal responsibility and results but not for leveling the man/woman playing field for the sake of everyone with the same title gets the same money. We will go back to the days of having the number of employees equal to the number of job titles in the organization.

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Reason Together November 3, 2008 at 10:18 pm

Do I detect a small hint of sarcasm in your post Mike? 🙂

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jessica lee November 5, 2008 at 2:18 pm

wow… thanks. i can’t wait for the Paycheck Fairness Act and Lily Ledbetter Act to both pass – democratic controlled congress, democratic president… nice. i’m waiting! waiting!

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Leo November 6, 2008 at 9:25 am

Is this Communistic or what?!? If a person chooses to work hard to advance and further their income, why should they be punished for it? Gender aside – these Acts will only help the bums. God help us not ever forfeit the freedom we’ve ever worked so hard to attain…

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Anonymous November 7, 2008 at 7:11 am

I definitely see you are not really in favor of these broad brush Acts are you Mike? Your last comment is the most telling and true…IF the jobs are still there. So many of these types of laws may sound good on the surface to many, but are going to cost business so much. Do you see ANYTHING positive for HR that might come of this election result?

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Bohdan November 13, 2008 at 12:28 pm

I would be more interested in seeing compensation breakdown along the line of those who ‘fell’ into HR and those who actively pursued it as a career.

Also, company size and industry breakdown would be interesting.

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nurid May 22, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Do people actually still believe in the “wage gap”?

It’s a myth, much like bigfoot is.

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