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Men are 43 per cent more likely to take the top position in HR - Harvey Nash HR Survey 2014

Despite men representing only one-third (37 per cent) of HR professionals, they take over half (53 per cent) of all HR positions at Chief, Vice President or Director level; an over-representation of 43 per cent.  Men are 50 per cent more likely than women to aspire to the role of Chief HR Officer.

This is according to the fourth Harvey Nash Human Resources Survey, compiled from the views of over 900 HR professionals across eight countries including the UK.


The progression of women from entry level to senior positions in HR does not compare favourably with other departments. For example, in IT, whilst only one in ten employees is female, the ratio remains the same from entry level through to CIO / Head of IT (source: Harvey Nash CIO Survey 2013 / Harvey Nash Technology Survey 2014).  This suggests that although there are less women entering the IT profession, a good proportion of them manage to climb the career ladder successfully, something that their peers in the HR industry appear to be struggling with.


The survey looked at the ultimate career ambitions of men and women in HR. Men are 50 per cent more likely to aspire to the Chief HR Officer role, and 72 per cent more likely to aspire to a C-level role outside HR. They are also more likely to change job to gain a seat on the board (29 per cent more likely) and to increase their salary (21 per cent more likely).


Despite clear differences in long-term career ambitions, the short-term job priorities and aspirations for men and women are very similar. Both rate ‘interesting work ‘ and ‘being valued by the business’ as the two main factors in job satisfaction; they also broadly agree on how successful they are in their own role, as well as the priorities they and their team are being set by the board.


The Harvey Nash HR Survey suggests that the success of men achieving senior positions is less to do with differences in job performance or strategic influence, and more to do with men having clear, sometimes ambitious, career aspirations.


Lisa Wormald, Director, Harvey Nash HR commented: “Given how well represented women are in HR, you could be forgiven for thinking that gender diversity is not an issue. What this research shows is that there is hidden challenge in  promoting female senior HR talent. From my own experience of recruiting senior HR professionals it is very clear that women are equally capable as men in performing their role.  However when it comes to their career, men tend to be more confident and driven about ‘throwing their hat into the ring’ for senior opportunities. If women want to take more of the top roles in HR they need more of that male ‘naked ambition’.”


Other key information from the survey


Employee engagement highest priority for 2014: When asked what single HR priority would be the most important in the coming 12 months, employee engagement was ranked highest. Including high performers in succession planning was rated as the most popular approach for developing engagement (53 per cent of HR professionals included this in their strategy), followed by providing access to senior leaders as mentors (52 per cent).


Increased job changing: Almost half (43 per cent) of HR professionals have moved role within the last two years, compared to 32 per cent 12 months ago. At the same time, the proportion of HR professionals staying with their employer for more than five years has dropped to 18 per cent (down from 22 per cent last year).


Online recruitment developing: The use of social media in recruitment and employer branding increased in the last twelve months, however  internet job boards, external recruitment agencies and the corporate website remain the most important tools to attract new talent.



About the research:
(i) Survey conducted online by Harvey Nash between 22 August 2013 and 11 October 2013 amongst 918 Human Resources professionals from businesses across the world.  This is the 4th in a series of annual HR surveys conducted by Harvey Nash to identify emerging trends and issues in the Human Resources sector.

(ii) For more information about the survey and to request a full copy of the results, please visit or email

Media Relations contacts:

Michelle Smith
Harvey Nash plc 
+44 (0)20 7333 2677

About Harvey Nash

Established in 1988, Harvey Nash has helped over half the world's leading companies recruit, source and manage the highly skilled talent they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive, global and technology driven world. With 4,000 experts in 40 offices across Europe, Asia and the U.S. we have the reach and resources of a global organisation, whilst fostering a culture of innovation and agility that empowers our people across the world to respond to constantly changing client needs. We work with clients, both big and small, to deliver a portfolio of services: executive search, professional recruitment and outsourcing.

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