Academic journal article Management Revue

The Strongest Link: Legitimacy of Top Management Diversity, Sex Stereotypes and the Rise of Women in Human Resource Management 1995 - 2004**

Academic journal article Management Revue

The Strongest Link: Legitimacy of Top Management Diversity, Sex Stereotypes and the Rise of Women in Human Resource Management 1995 - 2004**

Article excerpt

Over the last decades, HRM scholars associated the inclusion of women into HRM with the occupation's loss of status. Such views have difficulties to explain more recent developments in Europe that show a co-evolution of feminization and status increase of HRM. In this article, we review these developments and offer an explanation that accounts for them. Linking neo-institutional arguments with literature on sex stereotypes, we suggest that allocating women to HRM offers a solution for organizations to deal with growing demands for enhancing diversity within top management without giving up the traditional division of female and male work. We show how the patterns of the inclusion of women into HRM in 11 European countries between 1995 and 2004 support this explanation.

Key words: HRM, occupational status, occupational feminization, sex stereotypes, institutional pressures

'The gender composition of the board can affect the quality of (...) the financial performance of the firm. "

(CampbeU/Minguez-Vera 2008: 435)

'The personnel woman is a good example of the educated girl who has channelled her energies and abilities into the business community, in a job well above the rank-and-file level. "

(Merkel 1963: 121)

Occupational feminization and status of HRM: Friends or foes?

Over the last decades, there has been a remarkable increase of women working in the field of human resource management. For example, the share of female HR professionals in the US increased from 27.3 per cent in 1970 to 53.3 per cent in 1990 (Blau et al. 1998). Similar trends can be observed in other countries like the UK (Legge 1987) and Australia (Trudinger 2004). Today, in numerous industrialized countries, women represent the majority of HR professionals (Brandi et al. 2008a).

Scholars examining historical developments of the HRM occupation have observed a co-evolution of changes in female representation and status of HRM: in the past, the inclusion of women in HRM has accompanied the demise of the HRM profession or hindered its ability to gain full status (Simpson/Simpson 1969). Reversely, a decrease in numbers of women has accompanied an improvement in the occupation's status. In trying to account for these developments, scholars emphasized that the representation of women within HRM depends on the attractiveness of the occupation to men (e.g., Legge 1987; Roos/Manley 1996). As long as HRM is not important at the overall level of organization and society, men are not interested and leave the positions to women. When the occupation's importance increases, men become interested in entering the field and displace women. A core argument for why women get displaced is that employers tend to prefer men for HRM when the occupation's status is high (Reskin/Roos 1990). For example, when the upcoming of scientific testing instruments shifted the image of HRM from a welfare to a professional function, the share of male HR specialists increased (Trudinger 2004: 104). A close relationship between status decrease and rise of women's representation or vice versa could be observed from the early stages of HRM until the end of the 1980s (Roos/Manley 1996). More current documentation of feminization and status of HRM cannot be found in the literature.

In this article we present data filling this gap by reporting the percentage of women working in HRM (on the staff and the director level) and linking it to the status of HRM in 1995 and 2004. Using a large company level data set from 11 Western European countries we find a picture that differs considerably from the inverse relationship between female representation and status seen in the past Between 1995 and 2004 the percentage of women in HRM increased significantly and at the same time the status of HRM rose. Our data indicates the co-evolution of inclusion of women and rise of status in HRM. Arguments were used in the past to explain the inverse co-evolution, however, they have difficulties to account for co-occurrence of high occupational status and female representation. …

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