Female acceptances onto HR higher education courses outnumber males by almost three to one, according to data released by centralised education admissions service UCAS.
In 2015 males made up just 26% of acceptances, with 550 female applicants enrolled onto HR courses and only 195 men. Since 2007 men have never made up more than a third of HR higher education applicants.
Will Davies, HR director at Ordnance Survey, said that the profession has the image of being a female vocation. “I think there’s a perception that HR is a profession for women; one that requires a softer set of skills that many men wouldn’t believe they possess nor would necessarily want to develop,” he told HR magazine. “Having entered the profession as an HR generalist, I know this perception couldn’t be further from the truth.”
HR is bucking the general gender balance trend in many higher education business courses. In management studies, finance, accounting and more general business studies, male acceptances outnumber female. Only marketing and HR courses had a greater number of women enrolled than men.
However, HR being seen as a traditionally feminine business area has not always been the case. “The irony is that HR evolved from the male-dominated arena of industrial relations,” said Davies. “They concerned themselves with ‘personnel’ issues to make sure they had the right people in place to get the job done. I’m not sure that business needs are much different today, so it’s strange to think male entrants can’t see the value of taking a role in HR.”
Dianah Worman, diversity adviser for the CIPD, suggested that in order to attract a gender-diverse talent pool HR professionals should describe their roles accurately. “We need to communicate what this job is really about,” she said. “People management is more than just being nice; it’s finding ways to make people feel valued.”
Davies said he personally was drawn to HR because of an interest in social science and psychology: “At its heart, HR requires you to be inquisitive and analytical, a problem-solver and a pragmatist. If we put it like this perhaps more men would be attracted to our profession.”
“We all have something to gain by encouraging more men into the profession because everybody brings something different to the job,” added Worman. “We can’t change it overnight, but if we don’t change how we operate today then we’ll get the same results as we got yesterday.”