Why Is Secretary Still the Top Job for Women?

by Tess Duncan

Out of the 4 million U.S. citizens categorized as secretaries or administrative assistants between 2006 and 2010, 96% of them were women. You might be wondering why this is, since most of you probably aren’t fantasizing about your future blossoming career as a secretary. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

When the Industrial Revolution created massive amounts of paperwork to be completed, the need for secretaries rose. Companies were keen to the fact that they could pay women lower wages, making them the perfect target for the many jobs that had been created. It was even easier to become a secretary because certification did not require a college degree.

Ray Weikal, spokesman for the International Association of Administrative Professionals, explains, “Every time a major new technology showed up, there were always predictions that this would spell the end of secretaries. You saw that with the development of electric typewriters, the personal computer, and the internet, but every time technology gets more efficient, the amount of business increases. You continue to need people who can use those tools.” It seems that the trend may continue, as the Labor Department predicts that this category will grow 12% between 2010 and 2020.

Another reason we probably don’t associate “secretary” with its popularity as much is that the phrase has undergone a bit of a makeover. Weikal attributes it to women in the 70s demanding more equality in the workplace. Its negative connotation forced many employers to rename the job title to sound more fancy-shmancy: executive assistant, administrative assistant, office professional.

In the 1970s, a number of Harvard secretaries formed the group 9to5, demanding change in the working conditions and image of female office workers. Since its birth, the group has expanded its goal to fighting for better conditions for all women in low wage jobs generally. When we take into account the fact that in 2010 women were still making 78 cents to every man’s dollar, it’s even more obvious that this mission is still extremely relevant. Importantly, female secretaries make 87 cents to every male secretary’s dollar.

So that’s awesome. Even when women are employed in a position this is apparently “suited” for women over men, we still don’t get paid equally. It doesn’t matter whether you went to college either, because a male secretary would still receive higher wages than you. But if you did go to college, you don’t have much of a choice when it comes to accepting that lesser waged job offer with all that student loan debt you’re in and the beautiful pile of interest it’s collecting. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, everybody, but are we ever going to get equal pay? Srsly.

Photos via MNartists.org and Descriptionofjobs.com

Source: CNN.com

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