Seventy nine percent of organizations are committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as a priority, and HR teams generally take the lead on these initiatives. Fifty two percent of employers say the CHRO is either partially or fully responsible for DEI at their companies. 

But most HR teams aren’t diverse themselves. Seventy six percent of HR professionals are women, while only 23 percent are men and one percent are non-binary. Further, 62 percent of HR professionals are white, while 17 percent are Asian, 10 percent are Black, 8 percent are Latino, and 9 percent identify with another race or ethnicity. 

If your organization is prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in 2022 and beyond, you may want to begin with your HR team. A diverse group of HR professionals will be more equipped to help you reach your DEI goals and support a diverse workforce.

HR needs more diverse, equitable talent pipelines

Proactively sourcing talent is a great way to build a diverse talent pipeline. But with so many organizations focused on increasing the representation of women in the workforce, the lack of gender diversity in HR may go unrecognized as an issue. 

While men are not generally considered a marginalized group, they are still underrepresented in HR roles. Sourcing more men—particularly those who identify with other marginalized groups including the LGBTQ+ or neurodiverse communities—can improve the diversity of your HR team.

But look carefully at your talent pipeline at every level. While HR roles are predominantly occupied by women, representation wanes as responsibility increases:

  • 74 percent of Human Resources Associates are women, while 22 percent are men.
  • 68 percent of Human Resources Managers are women, while 29 percent are men.
  • 63 percent of Directors Of Human Resources are women, while 34 percent are men.
  • 49 percent of Human Resources Vice Presidents are women, while 48 percent are men.

* Percentages don’t add up to 100 percent as gender data wasn’t available for all survey participants.

This indicates that women aren’t being hired and promoted into leadership roles in HR at the same rates as men. This International Women’s Day the theme is #BreakTheBias and we want to imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. To help with this in your organization keep an eye on your equity data to ensure women are given the same opportunities as men, and encouraged to take them. Together we can break the bias in our workplaces.

Fair pay needs to be addressed

As in many roles predominantly filled by women, men tend to outearn their female counterparts at every job level:

  • The average salary for a female Human Resources Associate is $47,710, while men earn an average of $51,244.
  • The average salary for a female Human Resources Manager is $78,760, while men earn an average of $83,624.
  • The average salary for a female Director Of Human Resources is $102,124, while men earn an average of $108,744.
  • The average salary for a female Human Resources Vice President is $172,392, while men earn an average of $183,691.

That is, women earn 93-94 percent of what men earn in the same roles. This demonstrates why diversity shouldn’t be the sole focus—equity and inclusion must be front and center as well. Adding more men to the HR profession would lead to a more diverse team, but could create more issues around equity and inclusion for women. Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough, action is needed to level the playing field. Keep an eye on your pay equity data to ensure you’re implementing fair internal pay practices.

HR’s DEI issues are long-standing

To truly understand the lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion in HR, it’s helpful to consider the role’s roots. The HR profession originated in the 1900s, as women were hired as welfare secretaries to ensure the safety of mill workers. The role eventually evolved into caretaker, benefits, and party-planning roles. Responsibilities were more administrative in nature, and likely considered low-value as they weren’t revenue-producing.

Fast forward to today, and HR encompasses a wide variety of responsibilities, but may still be seen as more of a cost center in many organizations. Modern HR professionals are changing that by shifting their focus from HR administration to strategic People Operations. As this crucial business function continues to transform, it will be even more important to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion within the HR team—so it can best support DEI company-wide. 

Final thoughts

The HR role began as a profession for women, and continues to be predominantly female to this day. But strong representation by women still doesn’t make it equitable or inclusive. It’s important to diversify your talent pipeline at every level. That may mean mentoring and sponsoring more women for your leadership roles. It’s also more important than ever to track your HR data, including things like pay equity, promotion rates by gender, and leadership representation by gender. The right data gives you important insights that help you make more informed decisions and allow you to build a more strategic HR function. Together we can forge women's equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

More helpful resources

Want to learn more? Check out some of these resources:

  1. How Can We Make the Workplace More Inclusive for Women? [blog post]
  2. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace [course]
  3. Redefining HR for the Post-COVID Future of Work [open source project]
  4. Advancing your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Efforts [eBook]
  5. Diversity: HR & Recruiting Best Practices [Facebook group]


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Why Is The HR Role Predominantly Female?