Are Men In HR Going the Way of the Dinosaur?

by Michael Haberman on July 27, 2010 · 8 comments


I was reading some of my mail this morning as I was wondering what to write about today. One newsletter I get is The Keen Thinker, written by the folks at 800CEOread. (This is a resource I highly recommend. They give you the scoop on all the business books being produced today. I get there Keen Thinker newsletter, their daily blog, and the weekly In Bubble Wrap which gives books away. I have gotten two in the past.) In this most recent issue of The Keen Thinker Carol Grossmeyer, owner of 800-CEO-READ, reviews and recommends The Female Vision by Sally Helgesen & Julie Johnson.

In her review Ms. Grossmeyer writes “Sally Helgesen, bestselling author of The Female Advantage, and Julie Johnson, a pioneer in executive coaching, have written a book that explains the difference in how men and women approach the business world.” She further says “Through research, well-documented studies and personal experience stories, Helgesen and Johnson explain in The Female Vision what women “notice,” how they value what they “see,” and how that vision can be a powerful tool at all levels of the business world. But because, for the most part, business schools teach a singular “male” vision (“women’s attention operates like a radar, picking up signals across a wide spectrum, whereas men’s attention operates like a laser, focusing on a single point in depth”), the traditional workplace is not structured to recognize women’s, often more subjective, observations.”

Ms. Grossmeyer quotes several sections of the book that talk about “The lack of attention to and lack of respect for women’s ways of seeing, their holistic approach to motivation, and their perception of worth and satisfaction has put our marketplace—and culture in general— at a grave disadvantage.” 
One quote that caught my eye in particular is “The value women place on relationships has increasing marketplace value. Changes in the nature of technology have made relationships—with customers, clients, suppliers, competitors, shareholders, and the community as well as within the organization itself—a far more vital resource for organizations than in years past.”

Reading this got me to thinking about the field of Human Resources. It is no secret that in the past few decades that the field has become female dominated. You only have to go to a conference to see that. (Anyone have the figures for male vs. female attendance in San Diego?) My own observation from teaching the PHR/SPHR prep classes over the past 13 years shows that attendance in those classes has been at least 80% female. If you read HR blogs a large number are written by women. (PunkRockHR, The HR Minion, The HR Bartender, Profitability Through Human Capital, the HR Ringleader just to name a few.) There are some notable men, Kris Dunn, Lance Haun and Mike Vandervort, that come to mind. But many of the men are in specialties that might be considered “male” such as labor, technology and recruiting (finding prey?).

So given that and the increasing marketplace value of women’s view of relationships I ask myself am I a member of a dying breed, a male in HR? Is the time of Men in HR past?

What do you think? Are men in HR going extinct? And why?

(By the way if you are interested in the book The Female Vision you can get it through 800CEORead here or at Amazon The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work. I will be putting it on my reading list. )

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara A Hughes July 27, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Interesting post, Mike. As a matter of interest, what got you into HR in the first place? Do you think that those factors are still relevant today and do they appeal to men entering the workforce?
Is HR as a function perceived as a stepping stone to C-level positions?
No answers to your questions, just more questions!

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Trish McFarlane July 28, 2010 at 7:09 am

I'm wondering if it won't be men leaving HR but the profession seeing a shift as more women become comfortable with the more aggressive nature of recruiting or excelling in the technology side of the industry.

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Michael D. Haberman, SPHR July 28, 2010 at 11:25 am

Barbara:
I am one of HR people that "fell" into HR as I was wandering about looking for my place in life after leaving the world of research on monkeys and chimpanzees. (Many people tell me it was just a natural progression or perhaps a digression?) Anyway, one of the things that appealed to me was the control aspect. I had the opportunity to influence the course of many lives. Yes, that may appeal to many men still but I don't know if HR necessarily as that much control. That is being taught as a dated concept.

And as of yet, I don't think a majority of people see the HR department as the quickest stepping stone to the C-suite. It can be and is being taught today that it can be, but many of the individuals that would make that determination are not schooled in that value of HR. They are still being educated but it may yet be a long road.

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Michael D. Haberman, SPHR July 28, 2010 at 11:32 am

Trish, I think women will become more comfortable with the "aggressive" side of HR and you will see more women in recruiting, technology and labor. However, for men to be staying in HR as the are supplanted in those positions they will have to embrace their "softer side" and take on positions that require intuition, people reading, situational awareness, etc. Much of that will depend upon societal trends. The 'metrosexual' thing didn't last too long. So men, who are becoming a minority in the workforce in total, will seek work that may more closely fill their personality needs. I will be interesting to watch. Thanks for the thought provoking comment.

I would like to hear from others as well.

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working girl August 5, 2010 at 4:05 am

Great food for thought but wasn't HR always dominated by women? Perhaps not at the very top, but numerically?

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Michael D. Haberman, SPHR August 5, 2010 at 9:27 am

Working Girl.. No, I don't believe that was the case. Given that in 1970 only 40% of women 16 or older were working outside the home. And the nation was much more industrial. HR was mostly male. If a woman was in the HR department she was a clerk. Even in 1980 when I first got into HR the manufacturing company I worked for all the HR managers (personnel managers at that time) were all men. "Women could not relate to the men in the plant."

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Marlien January 26, 2012 at 4:24 am

Clear, inorfmaitve, simple. Could I send you some e-hugs?

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James Landrith October 31, 2012 at 10:10 pm

I’ve got about 15 years combined HR experience from the military, medical staffing and retail. Your article was definitely along the lines of some of my own concerns. I don’t think we are going extinct so much as we have a perception problem with the general public.

This is my most recent article on men in HR.

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-new-womens-work-on-being-a-male-human-resources-professional/

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