By Deepa Narwani

On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2022, The HR Observer had the opportunity to speak to women leaders in HR about how to #BreaktheBias. Excerpts from an interview with Ashley Boots, Chief Human Resources Officer, NMC Healthcare and Renate Baur-Richter, Program Director at SEDRA Foundation for Inclusion.

What are the challenges that women leaders in HR face today?

Ashley Boots: This revolves more around women and leaders in general and not necessarily in HR because there are some universal truths. There are a lot of traits that we associate with leaders that tend to be more male traits. Women should avoid trying to be something they’re not or trying to fit into a stereotype of what a leader is. So, one piece of advice I would give is to know who you are, know your truth, and be that person. Because leadership is hard, you shouldn’t constantly try to be somebody you are not and put your energy into the wrong things.

What can companies do to be more diverse and inclusive in their hiring strategies?

Ashley Boots: Firstly, companies can be more intentional about being diverse and inclusive. If you don’t set the intention of what you want to do differently, you will never be able to do anything differently. Secondly, when you’re hiring, make it about the role and the knowledge, skills, and expertise for people to be successful in that role. Because we often hire what seems familiar and people within our network, which means we’re always hiring more of the same. But when we make it more around the role and the specific skills, it helps us be more objective. Thirdly, for every five shortlisted names, make sure one of them fits into the diversity and inclusion category we’re trying to enhance. I have seen that work with some success. It goes back to the first point about being intentional – what gets measured gets done.

What would your advice be to women entering HR?

Renate Baur-Richter: I recommend looking out for a male mentor. This might sound counter-intuitive, but it has worked for me in my career. This allows you to get so many insights from what is called “the boys talk”!

What does the future of HR look like?

Renate Baur-Richter: Today, HR is uniquely positioned to drive organisational cultural transformation forward. That is the epicentre of creating an inclusive corporate culture to contribute to Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) strategies. I believe we are seeing an increasing relevance of HR when we talk about organisational development in the future.