The misconceptions of HR: A women dominated role

In light of International Women’s Day, I was reflecting on some of the common misconceptions of HR. This including what an HR department actually does and how it is a woman’s job. I considered why this was and if it even mattered. I have previously highlighted some common beliefs of an HR department that I have come across. For example, HR is:

  • Drinking tea, eating biscuits and discussing problems with people
  • Hiring and firing
  • Processing holiday requests
  • Providing a shoulder for people to cry on
  • Being snubbed for enforcing rules

HR can involve the above tasks if that is what the business needs, but in reality, HR is fabulously a lot more than that. HR is protecting employers from risk whilst ensuring a safe, supportive and compliant workforce. We put the appropriate frameworks in place to save business time, money and hassle. All with a personal touch, and sometimes there is still time for tea and biscuits. Fox’s Viennese are my favourite.

But on reflection, why is it that these are the facts people often misunderstand? An observation I have made is perhaps this is because HR is a woman dominated role. This is factual. According to Forbes, 71% of HR managers are women and the Chartered Institute for Personal Development, (CIPD), a professional association for human resource management professionals, claims 72% of its members are women. But why is the case? There are a number of reasons to explore.

  • Genetics and biology: women have a natural ability to care for others and subsequently are adept to interact with people
  • Psychological: stemming from the biological reason, women could be better suited for psychological roles as opposed to physical roles
  • History: for decades HR has been considered to just require soft skills which is claimed to suit women
  • Discrimination: an issue HR tries to reduce and raise awareness on, including sex discrimination. Women can feel discriminated against because of their sex so does it make sense for women to manage this issue.

We can therefore see why HR is perceived to be just a woman’s job but this is still supporting that HR roles are mostly spent just caring for people. HR in this age requires more than these soft skills as it involves: technology, operations, strategy, evidence, finance, data orientation and analysis; and more. Does this mean that men will be needed for a successful HR function because they have been considered to be better with the numbers and hard skills? Or does this mean that women have the ability to manage both soft and hard skills?

Success has been found to be achieved with a balanced workforce but if we are all equal, or can all carry out soft and hard skills, then why does it matter what gender we are? I therefore find that this message can be directed to the question of why do we have an International Women’s Day to celebrate a woman’s achievements? Would we not be better off inspiring one another every day, no matter what our gender?

This article was written by Matilda Swanson and originally appeared on LinkedIn.

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