Men More Likely to Take the Top Position in HR

Despite men representing only one-third (37 per cent) of HR professionals, they take over half (53 per cent) of all HR positions at Chief, Vice President or Director level; an over-representation of 43 per cent. Men are significantly more ambitious than women, being 50 per cent more likely to aspire to the role of Chief HR Officer.

This is according to the fourth Harvey Nash Human Resources Survey, compiled from the views of over 900 HR professionals across eight countries including the UK and Hong Kong.

The progression of women from entry level to senior positions in HR does not compare favourably with other departments. For example, in IT, whilst only one in ten employees is female, the ratio remains the same from entry level through to CIO / Head of IT (source: Harvey Nash CIO Survey 2013 / Harvey Nash Technology Survey 2014). This suggests that although there are less women entering the IT profession, a good proportion of them manage to climb the career ladder successfully, something that their peers in the HR industry appear to be struggling with.

The survey looked at the ultimate career ambitions of men and women in HR. Men are significantly more ambitious than women, being 50 per cent more likely to aspire to the Chief HR Officer role, and 72 per cent more likely to aspire to a C-level role outside HR. They are also more likely to change job to gain a seat on the board (29 per cent more likely) and to increase their salary (21 per cent more likely).

Despite clear differences in long-term career ambitions, the short-term job priorities and aspirations for men and women are very similar. Both rate ‘interesting work’ and ‘being valued by the business’ as the two main factors in job satisfaction; they also broadly agree on how successful they are in their own role, as well as the priorities they and their team are being set by the board.

The Harvey Nash HR Survey suggests that the success of men achieving senior positions is less to do with differences in job performance, and more to with men having clear, sometimes ambitious, career aspirations.

Nick Marsh, Managing Director, Harvey Nash Executive Search APAC commented: “Given how well represented women are in HR, you could be forgiven for thinking that gender diversity is not an issue. What our research shows is that there is deep, hidden problem in nurturing and promoting female HR talent through the ranks. Women are equally as capable as men, but men are more likely to put themselves forward for job opportunities. If women want to take more of the top roles in HR they need to effectively ‘lean in’, and existing senior leaders need to take control of the issue to drive change, so businesses can enjoy the benefits of more gender balanced teams.”

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