The days of Mad Men are long gone, the flocks of hopeful girls aspiring to become some Don Draper-like man’s secretary are past and there’s been an entire movement dedicated to empowering women. Which might make it surprising to some that just like in the 1950s and early 1960s, the top job for women is still secretary.
Wait, what? It’s true — perhaps there aren’t typewriters clacking and (we hope) overtly sexist bosses barking out order, but of the 4 million workers in the U.S. in the category of “secretaries and administrative assistants” between 2006 and 2010, 96% of them were women, according to the U.S. Census.
CNNMoney looks into the rise of the secretary, which began with the increased paperwork of the Industrial Revolution. The job became popular in the 1950s, when 1.7 million women were “stenographers, typists or secretaries.”
“It was out with the stenographers, and in with the data processing people. But many women are still employed in that large category,” Cindia Cameron, organizing director at 9to5, National Association of Working Women told CNN.
Secretaries have stuck around despite the changing job market and titles within each industry that employs them, because as we gain new technology, business picks up. And someone has to employ those new tech tools in order to make the business run.
Things likely won’t change any time soon, as the Labor Department predicts that the job category of administrative assistant will grow about 12% between 2010 and 2020.
As women’s liberation rolled through the country in the 1970s and onward, the preferred term became “administrative assistant” or “office professional.” The National Secretaries Association even changed its name to the International Association of Administrative Professionals.
But in 2011, the term secretary had somewhat of a rebirth and yes, it could be because of the nostalgia for the 1960s Americans began to have while watching Mad Men, according to the IAAP. It conducted a survey showing that the job description was having a bit of comeback, and attributed it to that show.
Despite the shifting perception of secretaries, just as in other jobs, full-time female workers earned $0.78 to every dollar men earned in 2010. As such, female secretaries and assistants earned an average salary of $34,304 in 2010, while men brought in the same job earned $39,641.
While the term is still around for those who want to use it, the major difference from now and way back when Don Draper and his ilk could demand coffee with nary a “please”? Women can be whatever they want, and are hired for a wide-range of jobs and skill sets. And you can get your own darn coffee.
Why secretary is still the top job for women [CNNMoney]