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UK – Men more likely to take top HR jobs

04 December 2013

Despite men representing only one-third (37%) of HR professionals, they take over half (53%) of all HR positions at Chief, Vice President or Director level; an over-representation of +43%.  Men are 50% more likely than women 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. 

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.

This suggests that although there are fewer 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 50% more likely to aspire to the Chief HR Officer role, and 72% more likely to aspire to a C-suite role outside HR. They are also more likely to change job to gain a seat on the board (29% more likely) and to increase their salary (21% 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 or strategic influence, and more to do with men having clear, sometimes ambitious, career aspirations. 

Lisa Wormald, Director, Harvey Nash HR commented: “Given how well represented women are in HR, you could be forgiven for thinking that gender diversity is not an issue. What this research shows is that there is hidden challenge in promoting female senior HR talent. From my own experience of recruiting senior HR professionals it is very clear that women are equally capable as men in performing their role. 

“However when it comes to their career, men tend to be more confident and driven about ‘throwing their hat into the ring’ for senior opportunities. If women want to take more of the top roles in HR they need more of that male ‘naked ambition’.” Ms Wormald concluded. 

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