Jeff Pon, Chief Human Resource Officer for SHRM, is a man of HR.
I had the pleasure of re-connecting with him on Sunday at SHRM13, and we had an interesting discussion about the demographics of SHRM members. According to Jeff, SHRM has large chunks of HR practitioners – those in their first 10 years of practice and those at the highest job classifications – who are noticeably absent from SHRM membership.
During the course of our discussion, Jeff also mentioned that 81% of attendees at the conference were women, reflecting the gender make-up of the profession.
But everyone knows – and comments – on the fact that HR is a female dominated profession, so his remarks didn’t surprise me at all. It wasn’t until a little later, reflecting on our conversation, that the proverbial lightbulb flashed on in my head:
I know lots more men in HR than I should, given the statistical domination of women in the space.
And the more I thought, the more I realized that the number of my professional HR contacts was almost evenly split between men and women. How could that be?
It didn’t take me long to figure out the reason: bloggers and SHRM volunteers.
Look at the picture above of the SHRM bloggers who played kickball for charity during the conference. Of those 25 people, 13 are men. Now you might argue that the numbers are a little bit skewed because the teams were designed to be split evenly between men and women. That misses the point that there was an equal number of men available to play, when logic seems to demand that the HR bloggers should be about 80% female.
But there is a pretty even split of men to women among HR bloggers, as you can see by looking at this more casual picture of SHRM bloggers working, and taken before I even had my discussion with Jeff Pon.
I also know that membership in the two SHRM local affiliates I belong to is predominately women, running close to the expected 80-20 split. But the working volunteers and leaders who do more than pay dues (run committees, serve as board directors, etc.) has a much higher percentage of men.
The question that springs to my mind – as usual – is WHY?
When I asked some of my fellow bloggers this question, they thought it was because women were working practitioners with less time to be involved. I disagree with this, because a lot of the men – especially the active SHRM volunteers – are working practitioners, too.
My theory is that women tend to shy away from professional opportunities and development, because “cultural messages undermine their leadership”, as argued most recently by Sheryl Sandberg and her Lean In manifesto. So the “extra” work of blogging or volunteer leadership is dismissed by a large percentage of the female HR pros.
And while I love the conversations and connections I have with these smart and savvy men of HR who blog and those who work so tirelessly for SHRM and its affiliates, I am a little dismayed that more women aren’t represented, given the larger number of working HR pros who are female.
What’s your theory?