Women replace men as HR heads in 60% companies
The corner office for human resources in India Inc, occupied by the chief HR officer (CHRO), has witnessed an interesting shift with more women replacing men.
Xpheno, a specialist staffing firm, mapped 200 movements of women HR officers over the last few years and found that they had replaced a male incumbent as an HR head in over 60% cases. This indicates stronger action by companies to meet their diversity and inclusion (D&I) requirements, especially at leadership levels, albeit through the HR department.
Interestingly, only 15% among these women have risen vertically to become CHROs. The study reveals the remaining 85% of these movements were external hires. While this means that talent pipelines internally were largely inadequate, the trend demonstrates a priority associated with the gender of choice for the role of CHRO.
Kamal Karanth, co-founder of Xpheno, said, “The interesting aspect this study has thrown up is not about a diversity shift at CHRO corner rooms, but that most organisations still have to go through the external hiring route to get there. Women are a majority in HR departments of most firms. This means the department that has to nurture women to the top is unable to do it. Whereas other organisations find them suitable for a C-suite. That’s a paradox.”
The study was conducted across multiple sectors in organisations having an employee base of over 500. According to the study, MNCs appear to chalk out better career paths for internal candidates, thus creating a better pipeline of women successors as compared to Indian enterprises. However, external hiring is a prominent feature across organisations.
Globally, HR positions are dominated by women and, over the last few years, India has witnessed a similar trend. Shabnam Jussa Gaitonde, HR head of Alembic Pharmaceuticals, said, “Till about the last decade, we saw a lot of women in HR, primarily at junior levels though. The CHRO position was usually held by a male employee. This could be attributed to a supply situation as the pipeline was not available back then. Today, we are seeing a shift with several of the HR leader posts being occupied by women, particularly in the metros. One of the reasons for this is, of course, that the pipeline is now available, which was not the case a decade ago.” Gaitonde said the other reason is that the essence of HR lies in the ability to make clear decisions about intangibles — such as personality and potential — that are conventionally strong female characteristics. “Women tend to demonstrate a higher level of emotional intelligence, particularly in areas of empathy and interpersonal skills. This ability to recognise emotions and to use this knowledge effectively to make informed decisions are an integral part of a CHRO’s role,” she added.
On the other hand, Shachi Irde, adviser to Catalyst Inc, a global non-profit working to expand opportunities for women, believes women dominating HR has largely been a myth. “If you look at employee data, you will find that women drop off somewhere in the mid level. What this data is confirming is that HR is no different. Organisations have to look at building stronger talent pipelines and focus on curbing attrition at the intersection of personal and professional priorities,” said Irde.
Technology, services/consulting and financial services — by virtue of a lead advantage — are ahead in the overall female HR head pack. But a significant shift is emerging in traditional industries, such as manufacturing, auto, chemicals and pharma, with gender shift being more pronounced in these sectors (almost three-fourths) as compared to the prior where the shift is just about 50%.