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A little more about Administrative Assistants

2009 March 1
by Mista Jay

I just wanted to post a little more about the group that I represented on Wednesday’s panel.

With the invention of the typewriter in the 1880’s, more women began to enter the secretarial field, though what I found interesting about this was that in order to make the typewriter become more “comfortable” for women to use, flowers were printed on the casing of the some of the earlier models. This then lead to the image of the “typewriter girl”

Another thing I noticed was that both interviews with male administrative assistants that I read mentioned the idea of the “lesser” tasks that secretaries were sometimes given, like getting the coffee. What I found interesting was that one man said that out of the group of secretaries in the office (he was the lone male) he was the only one that was sent to get the coffee or to get lunch for the office because: “No one thinks a man is going to be as good a secretary as a woman, so [he’s] usually the second choice to give the difficult job to.”

On the other hand, in the other interview, the man actually complained about the opposite effect: he was never sent to get the coffee, instead he was usually asked to fix things around the office that were broken. I find it interesting that we’re dealing with two different assumptions here, one where the male secretary is being treated as if he’s “under qualified” while the other one is being treated as if he’s “overqualified” and yet they both have the same effect of isolating the male secretary. As I mentioned in class, one of the men (the one that had to get the coffee) complained that none of the women wanted to talk to him; they already told he didn’t belong, that “he could do better.” Which brings up another disturbing fact in my mind, that some of these women don’t think they can do “any better”.

Also, when I was reading up on the International Association of Administrative Professionals, which was formally known as the National Secretaries Association and the Professional Secretaries international, I read that that the organization’s then-president Mary Barret and C. King Woodbridge, president of Dictaphone Corporation created a “Secretary’s Recognition Day” in order to acknowledge the hard work of “the women in the office.” Again, men were excluded from this holiday, or if they were included it was already established for women in the first place. Later the whole event was renamed to “Administrative Professionals Week” partially to drive out the notion that the term “secretary” refers only to women; however, in my opinion, I think the damage has already been done.



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