HR Insights, HR Management

What’s the Real Problem With HR? It’s the “Pink Ghetto” Effect

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Why does HR feel so broken? Why does HR have a public relations problem?

I think Human Resources struggles to be relevant because it is full of women. It isn’t the only corporate function that suffers from the soft and subtle outcomes related to institutional sexism. It’s just the most obvious.

The competencies that are attributed to successful leaders — the ability to innovate, influence and drive change — are nearly impossible for many HR women to gain because we lack opportunity and access. And we can’t get a seat at the table because we don’t look like any other members at the table.

Perpetuating a cycle

What’s worse is that the men who lead HR are often ashamed of the feminization of the function. They try to differentiate themselves from the rank and file HR members by position themselves as strategic leaders who are rooted in data.

It’s nauseating.

Yes, there are some powerful women (and minorities and gay people) in HR. I am glad you can name two or three of them. When you can name more than a dozen, you let me know.

And it’s not like there are great HR leaders mentoring the next generation. In fact, many amazing women leave HR because it’s a pink ghetto. They are sick of trying to prove their relevancy so they move on to more meaningful work.

The women who remain? They are often caught up in trying to prove themselves to men, thus perpetuating a cycle of paternalistic dependency and sexism.

I think we need to speak openly and honestly about the role of gender in the decline of HR. And we need more progressive women in positions of corporate leadership, influence and authority.

I hope that when we have CEOs who understand the personal implications of sexism and bias, we will see a different relationship with — and a new perspective of — Human Resources.

This was originally published on Laurie Ruettimann’s The Cynical Girl blog.

Laurie Ruettimann is a former HR leader turned influential speaker, writer, and social media strategist. You may know her as the creator of The Cynical Girl and Punk Rock HR, which Forbes named as a top 100 website for women. Laurie is a contributing editor for The Conference Board Review; a contributor to the TalentSpace blog and Business Insider; an advisor to SmartBrief on Workforce; and her advice has been featured in a wide variety of publications. Laurie is also recognized as one of the Top 5 career advisors by CareerBuilder and CNN.
  • Maureen Sharib

    Laurie, women don’t want to have this discussion. That would mean taking a long hard look at themselves and discovering why so many of them sabotage themselves (and others.)

    • http://punkrockhr.com lruettimann

      Maybe they’re doomed from the beginning because of the sexism and bias that exists in global corporations.

      I’d like to explore that idea a little more.

  • John Bushfield

    I’m not buying it. HR is not ‘full of women’ (binders of women?); if it were, the function would probably be stronger. HR is failing because most of its senior practitioners (men?) don’t understand the function; don’t know what they are doing, and lack the skill and intelligence to do the job even if they DID understand it. To pin the functional demise on women is to do a great disservice to both the gender and it’s role in helping companies succeed.

    • LindaGalindo

      Amen. “HR is failing because most of its senior practitioners (men?) don’t
      understand the function; don’t know what they are doing, and lack the
      skill and intelligence to do the job even if they DID understand it.”

    • http://punkrockhr.com lruettimann

      It always seems to be a “great disservice” to blame gender/sexual preference/national origin/age/disability even when we have amazing, historical data showing that gender/sexual preference/national origin/age/disability all factor into the way people/systems/companies operate.

  • http://twitter.com/KamaTimbrell KamaTimbrell

    How did folks miss this post was about institutionalized sexism/gender bias?
    It isn’t the only corporate function that suffers from the soft and subtle outcomes related to institutional sexism. It’s just the most obvious….are nearly impossible for many HR women to gain because we lack opportunity and access. And we can’t get a seat at the table because we don’t look like any other members at the table.