Why Secretaries Day has no place in the 21st century
Secretaries day– more recently updated to be called Administrative Professionals Day – was created by the International Association of Administrative Professionals 1952, when the organization was known as the National Secretaries Association. Astonishingly it is still in our calendars in the third week in April. The intention is to recognize and reward the work of admin staff, receptionists and other administrative support workers , whose work might be under-valued and under-appreciated.
The idea is to give these individuals gifts such as cards, flowers, and lunches to show appreciation. I have even seen a suggestion that bosses write a poem. But rather than an ode or sonnet, PAs might appreciate a pay rise. Workers who are not officially recognised, generally tend also to be under paid. It’s a message that says you are so low in the pecking order that you deserve a present.
“Responsibility without power – the fate of the secretary though the ages.” » Ariel Dorfman
Secretaries back in 1952 were probably exclusively women. Like many of the other functions that women perform they tend to be in low pay and low value jobs
“Happy is the man with a wife to tell him what to do and a secretary to do it.”
In a Mad Men’s world having a Secretaries Day might have seemed appropriate. Today it is anachronistic and patronising. Anyway, why separate secretaries and admin workers from other employees? Do we have Marketing or HR Days or Engineers Day or Accountants Day? Which functions are considered to be support staff and who decides?
We are also seeing a growth in male PAs as ambitious men caught up in post-recession unemployment are entering sectors that have previously been dominated by women. Some recruiters say they can represent 20% of all candidates now and the number is growing. Do they get a bunch of flowers and a box of chocs too?
Defunct and outdated
Administrative staff deserve full recognition all year round. They should be compensated appropriately in line with the functions they perform, very often managing up to organise their bosses, frequently with skill set deficiencies. An annual bunch of flowers and a card is out-of-place today. They should be treated like all other professionals in the workplace. Professionally and not indulged. Women secretaries should start demanding better conditions and refuse to be appeased by gender coded gifts.
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