Is the lack of diversity in HR part of the DEI Problem?

Published 14/11/2021 - 3 min Read

By Rachel Davis

Joint Managing Director

Quick Summary Listen to Rachel Davis discuss why, despite being female dominated, HR still has a significant role to play in supporting DE&I.

3 min Read


In terms of H.R. capability, no one feels like they're equipped to deal with the DE&I challenge. So nothing is moving, it has been so slow over, what is now, decades.

80% of HR professionals assess themselves as beginners in DE&I.

We need to look at the reasons why HR still doesn't feel so equipped because they are still the holder or perceived to be the holder of DE&I in an organisation, so HR needs to get equipped faster. The profession is dominated by females and by white females, so at its first witness, it's a really non-diverse population. It's interesting in terms of how you do that because obviously there is a big push on gender diversity as much as there is on other populations of the represented groups; ethnicity, disability and so on. But it's interesting when you put the gender lens on, that you could say it's incredibly diverse. 

70% of HR professionals identify as white females.


What's the answer? How do we make HR more diverse?

It can't be about trying to hire more men. That can't be the answer. We were working with a global pharmaceutical company, which we have done for years, they are really pushing their DE&I agenda, and part of that was to launch a new global RFP for executive search. So obviously, recruitment/hiring is a key way to bring diversity into an organisation. One of the categories that they have on the RFP for diversity was men in HR. That just cannot be the solution. It has to be diversity in HR. So yes, HR needs to sort its own house out first, as it were. But it can't just be a knee jerk and sort out the gender piece. It has to be right across the board.

60% of the Fortune 100 and FTSE 100 are female CHROs.

You can look at countless photos of FTSE 100, Fortune 100 companies, you look at their board, you see the woman, maybe two women, you can almost guarantee they'll be the CHROs because 60% of that population is female. So you think, wow, they are in a position of power to really do something about this? But it's also the functional roles as opposed to the commercial and leadership roles that gender box seems to be ticked in. So the stats are bad for CIOs, they're not that bad for CFOs, and I'm saying that but they're about 20% so they're not anywhere up to parity. 

Just 9% of commercial CEO-route roles are held by women.

But there's a big difference when you look at the executive leadership teams of these big companies and you look at the commercial roles, the classic routes to CEO, that statistic drops to 9%. Less than 10% of females hold commercial CEO-route roles, and that's where the difference is. So whatever's happening coming back to that original point around HR, the gender representation of female representation in HR has not helped any gender representation, let alone the broader DE&I agenda. It just hasn't managed to influence that at all over the years.

At Armstrong Craven, we’ve developed a DE&I Resources hub to help HR Directors and Talent Leaders access our vast range of diversity and inclusion resources. Here you'll find industry insights, expert opinions and in-depth whitepapers highlighting how HR professionals around the world are addressing the push for diversity.


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