Secretary Is Still the Top Job for Women & There Ain’t No Shame in That

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The more things change, the more they stay the same. At least that’s how it seems with recent data that shows that the most common job for a woman to hold in the 1950s is that same as it was in 2010: Secretary.

Wait … what? Haven’t women broken the glass ceiling and those tired old stereotypes that dictate they’re better off in the secretarial pool than in some high-powered corporate role? Yes! But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with more women than men filling secretarial roles in the workforce.

Women have indeed broken the glass ceiling, and are certainly capable of doing any job that a man can do. And all things being equal, we’re usually paid better for it. Heck, we’ve recently been invited to serve on the front battle lines in war, so no matter what your opinion is on what women should do, it seems we can do anything.

Just because women can do practically anything a man can do (but come on, is peeing while standing up really that great?) doesn’t mean that she isn’t better suited sometimes for certain jobs.

The term secretary has fallen out of popularity over the years, being replaced by administrative assistant or office professional, but let’s be honest: A secretary is a secretary. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s also nothing wrong with women filling a majority of those positions.

Why are more women than men secretaries? I’m going to run with gender stereotypes here and say -- they’re better at it. Women seem to be naturally more capable than men at scheduling, resolving conflicts, keeping people on task, and staying organized.

Side note: The top job for American men is truck driver … does this mean they’re better at sitting on their hineys for most of the day? I kid, I kid …

I called a female friend that works as a secretary to ask how she felt about this topic. “How do you feel about the fact that more women than men work as secretaries in today’s modern world?” I asked.

“I worked with a male administrative assistant once,” she responded with politically correct candor, “He got fired. He wasn’t very good at his job.” When I pressed her as to why, she said, “I think women are just more detail-oriented, and that’s a necessity in this line of work.”

So there you go. Sure secretaries, office assistants, administrative professionals, or whatever they’re being called today are more likely to be of the female variety. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t capable of doing anything else -- it just means we’re better at it.

Why do you think secretary is still the number one job for women in America?


Image via austinevan/Flickr

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wamom223 wamom223

I think women tend to be more of a care taker than men and they say women are better at multitasking than men, those are two skills for any great secretary.  Every professional woman I know started off with a male administrative assistant and now they all have women, I think that says it all.

Pinst... Pinstripes4

Hmm I disagree with the whole paid better or it" thing. Working within the same profession, women make less than men do . While women are paid less on the whole due to career choice, this does not explain that disparity within the same occupation, but rather the ability to carry children but not necessarily have one. Also , clientele are inclined to want to interact with female employees in these administrative roles. When working in an administrative position, a male employee more than once was told by the customer that they would rather speak to a woman. There is nothing wrong with being a secretary, of course, but why it is dominated by women is not necessarily for your given reasons. My two cents ...

Pinst... Pinstripes4

*clarification - male coworker

wamom223 wamom223

Pinstripes-Out of curiosity where did you get your numbers? I would be very surprised to see that male secretaries make more than female ones do.

Rosas... RosasMummy

what's crazy is that if this article was about how the majority of men are better at something people would go mental over it. On the whole women are better at some things and men are better at others, that doesn't mean that there aren't loads of men that are good at the woman stuff and vice versa

Bruic... Bruickson

I work at a very small optometry practice. And when I say small I mean it's only me and the Dr. who work there. We are connected to a larger chain that sell glasses but we are an independent business. Anyway, I guess I would be considered a secretary/dr. tech/optician. I've been offered higher paying jobs with bigger titles but I like what I do. It gives me the flexibility I need to also run my household and spend time with my family. I think a lot of women choose jobs like this for the same reason since many of the positions are part time with weekends and holidays off. If I were younger I would have taken the other job offers in a heartbeat. Now that I'm older and have a family my priorities have changed. Spending time with my family is more important than any job title.

bella... bellacazzate

While a lot of people go to college, a lot do not. I think there is a belief that one of the more realistic routes into a business setting without a college degree is an executive assistant, but unfortunately (though not 100 or 90% of the time, but indeed the majority of the time) it tends to be a position people get stuck in -- of either sex. While yes, it's flexible and allows for more family/personal time, it's probably not ideal for a lot of people seeking mobility unless they carefully choose an industry (say: a secretary in a doctors office -- you can't exactly move up in the ranks versus a secretary in an HR office who could most definitely be "trained" over the years with more/different responsibilities). 


The only thing that irks me about ideas like this is that it walks that weirdo Cosmo line of reasoning: women are naturally better at it and that that becomes a valid reason to expound upon something that has a rash of interesting implications behind it that go beyond "women are better at it." In caveman times women were cataloguing their root vegetables and making sure their children weren't being eaten by mastadons, so women have a primal instict that's suited to secretarial work which is why it remains the number one job for women.


That's what I heard when I read this. 

jhslove jhslove

I think the big problem is that secretaries, like teachers, nurses and other professions which have typically been female-dominated, tend not to be given the respect that they deserve. The assumption is that if you choose any of these careers, it must be because you weren't smart/ambitious/hard-working/whatever enough to do something "better". And I say that as a teacher. In generations past, women who filled these roles were generally unmarried and childless--so they already were the "marginalized women", dismissed with terms such as "spinster" and "old maid"--and their jobs weren't viewed as true professions. Further, while nursing has always required special training, teaching and secretarial work did not--anyone could be a teacher or a secretary. Even after these careers have become professionalized, and most secretaries and all teachers have college degrees--and often advanced degrees--their jobs are still looked at with that holdover "anyone could do this" view. This tends not to be the case with careers in male-dominated fields.

mommy... mommytojack0524

I'm an administrative assistant.  When I hear the term "secretary", I feel like it deducts IQ points. I don't take dictation, have a bee hive hairdo, or type on a typewriter.  

tbruc... tbrucemom

I too am an administrative assistant and have been a "secretary" for 35 years since that's what it was called when I started. I used to take dictaton but it's not needed any more, never had a bee hive hairdo and I definitely used a typewriter (not a manual one) before computers. I also fought to give up my typewriter when computers first came out. I love what I do and feel like I'm the "glue" that holds my office together. You have to be organized, able to multi-task, be friendly, have the right skills, etc. to do the job well. I think the reason it's mostly female is that most men think that it's "women's work". I've only encountered 1 or 2 AA's and they used the job as a stepping stone to get their foot in the door while they were getting their degrees. I was able to get a job before I actually graduated HS and have never had a problem getting one. The pay is actually pretty good since I've been doing it for so long.

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