Can you imagine Mad Men‘s Don Draper asking Percy Olson to take a letter? It sounds off-key because even today more than 95 per cent of us executive assistants are of the feminine persuasion. But that may all be about to change, as news reaches your favourite blogger that, with graduate unemployment growing, more and more men are eyeing up the role of personal secretary.
Apparently, recruitment agencies are seeing unprecedented numbers of male candidates applying for PA positions, lured by rumours of salaries of up to £75,000 in City jobs (which reminds me, I really must leave a copy of that article on Mr P’s desk, just before my next review).
At last year’s Office show, a presentation given by PA Life magazine (that indispensable guide to industry goings-on) charted the rise of the secretarial role from Ancient Rome, where scribes were educated men who took dictation and acted as trusted advisers. Get ready for the fun fact of the day my dear followers – did you know that the word ‘secretary’ comes from the Latin secretarius, meaning “one entrusted with secrets”?
Then, in 1870 Sir Isaac Pitman found a school for “professional and commercial gentlemen” to learn shorthand. But it was World War I that changed everything: as females began to enter the workplace, they took over the secretarial role and by the 1930s the number of men working as PAs had dwindled significantly. In fact, by 1962 a survey of employers revealed that nearly a third of them believed that sex appeal was a key condition of a PA’s job – good luck getting that attitude past an industrial tribunal nowadays!
And now it seems that the wheel is turning full circle, with men wising up to the fact that the so-called ‘stigma’ attached to administrative jobs has now dissipated. It seems the male species finally appreciates that being an EA nowadays calls for a heck of a lot more than having a good typing speed – but then, we knew that already ladies, right?