If you peel back the foliage, you can get a glimpse of the elusive “male HR professional.” This is a rare find indeed, and we don’t want to spook him, so we’ll just stand back and watch him awkwardly navigate the waters of his career as the only male in a hundred mile radius…
Has it always been this way?
I can still remember the first time I walked into a NASHRM event and looked around. There were about a hundred people in the room. Of that number the six guys (including me) stuck out like sore thumbs. It kind of made me laugh, because I’ve never worked in a job where the men outnumbered the women. It doesn’t really bother me, but I’ve always been a little curious about why the imbalance occurs.
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.
Like I said, I don’t like blanket statements and generalities, because I’ve certainly met dozens of female HR pros with a high strategic focus. However, due to the high percentage of women overall, there certainly are a lot of them who are doing that compliance work…
Steve Browne brings it
What if you told your amazing wife that the majority of your peers and role models were women, your closest professional friends were women and you go to conferences where over 70% of the attendees were women?
I remember having that conversation with my own wife. :-) Like I said, it doesn’t bother me, but it has added a few twists to my career thus far. I’ve had a few requests to write on that topic, so the next section will be devoted to that.
By popular demand
Recently I let people tell me what they wanted me to write about. Mike Haberman asked me to write on this topic specifically, and I think it’ll fit nicely here. His request:
I would like you to address the issue of being a young MAN in a profession now dominated by women. How have you been accepted by your employer, by your peers, and by your local HR leadership? Anything special you have had to do to gain credibility?
Whew! Not only do I have my youth against me, but I’m also a guy. I was hired by a woman (VP of HR) and worked with a solid cast of women before another guy was hired into the department (more on him in a second). One of the big reasons I was hired was for my love of all things technology, because they had just picked up a new HRIS and were working on implementation. Because of my interest in technology (which was noticed by HR Magazine), I quickly established a place for myself within the HR department. I don’t know if it should be a surprise or not, but none of the other ladies in the HR department are even remotely technical.
As for my peers, I’m not as chatty or inclined to sit down and talk about issues. I think that has had some effect on how I’m perceived at work. While the women in the department think nothing of plopping down in someone’s chair and hashing out an issue, I’d much prefer to figure it out myself or do some research online to see if I can handle it without asking someone else. It’s not that I’m not friendly or professional; I just want to be more independent than the other people in my HR department seem to be.
The place I’ve excelled the most is my local HR leadership. Our board for NASHRM is about 40% male, I think, so I fit in pretty well. And the females in there don’t treat me any differently for being a young guy trying to get his two cents in. :-)
My best friend/mentor is a dude
While I have a lot of friends and influencers who are women out there, the person who I have the most direct contact with and who influences me the most is a guy. I think it’s for multiple reasons, but mainly because we have a lot in common besides our strange fascination with the business of people and all things technological. Funny that out of the tiny percentage of males in the profession, I end up working with one in an HR department of six people. We definitely are well beyond the average male saturation at 33%. :-)
The imbalance online and in real life
It’s funny, because by looking at my list of HR blogs I follow, the mix is much less tipped to the female side of things. Sure, we have plenty of women out there blogging in the HR field, but as Mike Haberman pointed out in his post on men in HR going the way of the dinosaur, there are some brilliant guys out there pushing the envelope.
There was a fantastic discussion on Drive Thru HR with Bryan Wempen on this topic, and I encourage you to give it a listen. It’s fairly short, but he and Mike have a good time digging into the issue.
If you’re a man (or a young man–two strikes!) looking to make your place in this profession, then I suggest that you find something to specialize in and become the “go to” person for that. It’s how I got my foot in the door with both my SHRM chapter and my employer, and it can certainly work for you.
What are your thoughts? Are there differences between men and women in the HR field? If so, what are they?