Are Compliance Officers the New HR Professionals?

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on April 07, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Given the dramatic legal corporate landscape surrounding the economic downturn, it should come as no surprise that compliance officers are in demand. Not only that, but the salaries of attorneys who work in compliance are growing at some of the fastest rates in the legal industry, according to the Robert Half 2014 Salary Guide.

Another growing trend of compliance officers: A growing majority of people who hold that title are women. In fact, of all the members of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, almost 60 percent are women, according to Quartz. Is that a bad thing? Well, some view this as a troubling trend and are expressing fear that compliance officers may be the new human resources professionals.

Parking Successful Women

Why is that a potentially troubling trend? In 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor found that 72.7 percent of HR managers were women, reports Quartz. The problem is that the female-dominated position is viewed as "a place to park high-achieving women off the CEO track."

Furthermore, women in these roles "have little say at the most senior levels, and are rarely called upon to fill top roles," says Quartz. So, the growing feminization of the compliance officer role has some worried that it will just end up being another "parking spot" for women's careers.

Recognizing Talent

Rather than putting women in a holding pattern, corporate executives and boards should view women who are chief compliance officers as assets.

Shanti Atkins, president of a compliance company, states, "Organizations need to realize that high-performing individuals in a compliance role are low-hanging fruit for the C-suite and the board, and represent a new and untapped talent pool" -- which makes perfect sense. Compliance officers spend their days mitigating risk, while keeping the company's values, goals, and culture in mind. It would seem these are all valuable skills and insights for a member of the corporate leadership or board of directors.

Hopefully, the fate of compliance officers will not be the same fate of HR directors. Instead of putting women in these positions and forgetting about them, hopefully corporate executives will see these women as future leaders.

Are compliance officers the new human resources director? Let us know @FindLawLP on Twitter.

Editor's Note, April 12, 2016: This post was first published in April, 2014. It has since been updated.

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