A vast majority of human resource professionals are women — and women are attracted to the field for good reason. A career in human resources can be a lucrative one, and it's also a career in which women can use their communication, people and leadership skills.
Specifically, in 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that 72 percent of human resource managers were women; and, in 2017, PayScale reported that 86 percent of human resource generalists were women. The gender ratio of human resources is so skewed toward women, in fact, that John Sumser, a principal analyst for the blog HRExaminer, has famously said: "HR is a 47-year-old white woman. She’s married with kids and has pets that probably aren’t cats. She has either an advanced degree or a nationally recognized certificate."
So what's so great about HR that's appealing to so many women? Here's what the field human resources exactly is, what human resources professionals do and how you, too, can land a job in human resources.
Let's dive in...
What is HR and its functions, and what does a person in human resources do? To sum it up, human resource professionals are responsible for recruiting, screening, interviewing, placing and sometimes onboarding employees. They often also handle all employee relations, which includes but is not limited to payroll, benefits and training.
Human resource specialists usually focus on a single area, like recruitment or training, while generalists usually take on a number of different tasks. Most companies will have at least one or two HR generalists on staff, though larger companies may have several HR specialists who work in particular areas and handle specific services for the company.
Despite the varying responsibilities that a human resource professional might be tasked with handling, there are seven general functions of HR across the board:
Again, the tasks of an HR professional may vary. But on a typical day, an HR worker might do the following:
An HR manager may also take on the following:
There are a multitude of career paths you can go down in the human resources field.
According to the BLS, however, the field boils down to about four different types of human resources:
That said, each company may hire an HR professional to handle specific jobs. Here are just a few of the most obvious types of jobs.
"Before you even apply at an organization, you hear about them somewhere," according to Fairygodboss contributor, Kelly Poulson, a human resources pro and coach who helps people find and achieve what they want career-wise and beyond. "Employers have a brand and not only should the HR or personnel management team be a lead in helping to craft that brand they also bring it to life in various ways throughout your experience. When a role becomes available within the organization, the talent acquisition people talk to hiring managers to figure out what is truly needed. What level? What will be the focus of the work? What does someone need to be successful in this role? The talent aquisition or talent management team takes lead in posting, finding, weeding out individuals who may or may not be a right fit for the role in particular based on their experience or capabilities as well as the organization overall. (i.e. Not a right fit for this opportunity but let’s talk to them about a different gig on the horizon they’d be perfect for!)"
"When employees are struggling in some way, they can seek out the human resources team or a particular human resource manager," Poulson writes. "'Struggling' in this respect could mean a personality conflict with a colleague or manager and you’re looking for anything from tips to handle personally or mediation help to reporting harassment and looking for advocacy. In these instances, the HR team is there to listen objectively, assess, and address as best they can which depending on the situation itself can vary drastically."
"This area can be a stand-alone focus of its own, where individuals are leading surveys and analyzing data to truly assess where things stand within an organization and hopefully fuel where the rest of the team should focus their efforts next," Pouson writes. "For instance, if surveys give heavy data pointing to the fact that people aren’t being challenged or pushed by managers or learning and growing, it’s immensely helpful information to be shared with those in learning and development and well as the teams leading the performance management process."
According to the BLS, human resources jobs do require a bachelor’s degree, which is typically in business administration with human resources concentrations or classes. A master's degree may even be preferred, with a master's program in business administration or human resources.
On top of education, many companies often call for several years of experience and some even ask for certifications. For example, Fairygodboss is hiring for a director of recruiting, and calling for the following requirements:
Ultimately, more experience in HR is always a plus.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.
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