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Lend Me Your Ears. Or Maybe Your Bra.

May 27, 2011

We’re faced with a topic that just won’t go away so I figured I would add my 0.02 to the conversation.

After a kick-start by John Sumser at HRExaminer  I’ve seen it covered at The Tim Sackett Project, dissected at Flip Chart Fairy Tales, and discussed at XpertHR. A few days ago, Michael Carty followed up by posing a few questions over at Focus.  Check them here (for the guys) and here (for the gals).

A lot of back and forth about the “what exactly does it/should it/can it” mean since women outnumber men in HR.  Style, innate ability, tendencies towards certain types of behavior?  We can gender-stereotype all we want when we think about why women move into HR and how, if at all, they change the dynamic of their department, their organization or the profession as a whole.

Are women better at HR than men?  Please.  Questions like that are an insult; an implied jab at all the great men who work in HR.  I despise that question almost as much as the one “who would you rather work for, a female boss or a male boss?”


Layered on top of this conversation, however, rests the larger issue of overall gender discrimination and stereotyping.  This popped up, however briefly, at HRevolution during the Roundtable Discussion session.  But it really had no legs because I’m not sure the folks in that room have experienced blatant gender stereotyping.  Or they think it’s not happening anymore.  But it’s alive and well and still surfaces itself periodically:

*  A male EHS Manager and a female HR Manager attend a meeting and are introduced as “the safety man and the HR girl.”

*  A candidate for a management position arrives for an interview with a male GM and a female HR Manager.  During introductions he calls the male “sir” and the female “darlin'”

*  Question asked of female HR job candidate – “Are you sure you can work in this environment?  It gets hot and dirty and you won’t be able to wear your nice suits and high heels.”

*  Overheard at a business function within the last year – “Nice to meet you little lady, what do you do?”

Heard these, saw these and lived these – in the not too distant past.   I WAS the “HR girl.”  And trust me, I was about 30 years past the stage of being a girl anymore.

Is it the south?  Am I in a part of the US where we’re living in some sort of time-warp dimension?


Does it matter if HR is female?  Of course not; certainly not in terms of capabilities, education, knowledge and ability.  But until we get past this societal crap and baggage of how professional women are perceived – in ANY profession – we will still ask ourselves this question.

All that matters? At the end of the day I’m just thrilled when I see HR folks making a difference in their organizations, in the lives of their employees and within their profession.

Gender-neutral.  Whether they need to wear a bra or a bro.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2011 8:33 am

    Well said. And the gender bias/subtle stereotypes/gentle discrimination of all types is an equal opportunity pain in the butt that’s alive and well across many to most professions/trades/types of work. Having spent my entire adult life fighting for gender/color/etc. blindness in favor of meritocracy, I hate that we haven’t made more progress — but I also celebrate the huge amount of progress that we have made since I discovered that the male members of my programmer trainee class were paid substantially more than the female members because (and this was stated quite clearly) they would have families to support. Just as President Obama, regardless of your politics, is a symbol of that progress in the area of racial equality, so would be a woman in the Whitehouse. But of much greater importance, day to day, is to give credit where it’s due for wonderful work done by whomever and to ensure that we call out and remove the barriers to the advancement of those same wonderful workers. We took to the streets to get this far, and my younger colleagues may have to do the same to move the dial to full equality. It’s good to be king, and it’s understandable that they don’t give up a role they’ve played throughout all of human history.

  2. May 27, 2011 8:55 am

    It’s a shame that gender bias and stereotyping still exist, isn’t it Robin? I’ve worked in male-dominated industries my entire life, so I’ve been the target of similar statements and sentiments, although being called “darlin'” isn’t on my list. (Maybe THAT’S a Southern thing.)

    Sadly, we still need to work on this problem – which is going to be the subject of my next blog post. Thanks for keeping the issue up front.

  3. May 27, 2011 12:30 pm

    great post… i’m an idiot when it comes to this stuff so thank you for eloquently breaking down the subject matter for me… #appreciated

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