It’s A Man’s World….

Posted On 2 May 2020

It’s A Man’s World….

2 May 2020

Candidate Resource, News & Events

It's A Man's World....

Well, it used to be…. did you know for centuries men dominated the traditional role of Secretary?


His-story of the Secretary

The loose Latin translation for secretary, is secret and the position itself was one of power and authority. The earliest secretaries were those who were entrusted by a king and their role would include taking care of correspondence on private or confidential matters, particularly matters of the state.

A secretary was a trusted advisor and confidante and they held the secrets of the nobility, royal family and dignitaries, so it was a role of importance and especially prominence. Some of the roles were Personal Secretary, Private Secretary, Counsellor, Assistant Royal and Assistant to the State.

In order to hold such a valued and esteemed position, the person needed to be well versed in understanding the ‘world’ they were in. They needed to be well-educated, often speaking multiple languages and ‘penmanship’ was a skill that was held in high regard!

How War & Early Technology Impacted the Role of Secretary

In the second half of the eighteenth century, the industrial revolution brought technological developments, such as dictation and stenographic machines. Such machine tools replaced hand production techniques, and innovations such as steam power and gas lighting were introduced. This was the first step in the migration of men out of such roles and for women to enter the field. In the late nineteenth century, the first mass-produced typewriter was introduced, and it was believed because of a women’s small hands, they would be the best gender to operate them.

It was the Great War and WWII that brought the biggest changes though, with most secretarial positions now being filled by women. By this time, technology had also taken an even stronger hold on industry and machines such as calculators and data processing devices were common – making some of the traditional duties and skills less important.

All these things had a part in changing the standing and role of a secretary, but it is strongly believed the real reason women now held these positions was due to pay disparities, with businesses saving a substantial amount of money by employing a woman.

The More Modern Story of a Secretary

The role in administration has continued to evolve. We no longer use the word secretary, technology has taken over a lot of the ‘easier’ duties and the demand for some admin roles has declined….. but here is the interesting thing, the need for THAT key person, the holder of all things confidential; whether for business or personally, has increased, as has the skills and education needed to do the job.

There is a strong pull back to what the role used to be, way back in the beginning, centuries ago – as a key, trusted and esteemed advisor. As I have talked to Executives, MDs and CEOs of late, with everything they are experiencing and the decisions they are facing – the main message I receive is all about TRUST – who can they rely on when under such pressure.

Without even taking COVID-19 in to account, the workload and information flow for executives has increased exponentially and let’s not underestimate the political landscape at this level as well. So, the EA role in this environment is of a trusted confidante, business manager, adviser, counsellor, friend, ally, supporter, backstop, cheerleader, influencer, ears, eyes and more. In a LinkedIn post, Richard Branson wrote, “People often ask how I am able to keep on top of businesses in dozens of different countries and industries. Well, having an assistant who is on the ball 24/7 is one of the main ways it is possible.”.

So, with it being Administrative Professionals’ Day, let’s give the stature, recognition and applause due, to these valued and trusted individuals – the kings and queens of administrative support!

About the author
Roxanne Calder
Managing Director

As Founder and Managing Director at EST10, Roxanne has an all-encompassing role that includes building and growing the business, as well as actively recruiting and consulting.

After completing a Bachelor’s Degree at Monash University, Roxanne began her recruitment career with renowned recruiter Julia Ross. From there, Roxanne worked in HR and recruitment with a number of global players and boutique businesses throughout Australia, the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong for over 20 years. She has been responsible for managing large teams and projects, implementing RPO models, managing and assisting businesses to an IPO and assisting companies in setting up their recruitment teams and processes.

Following completion of her MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management, Roxanne launched EST10 in July 2010. In doing so, she hoped to combine the flexibility and high touch service levels of boutique agencies with the structure and strategy afforded to larger firms. Roxanne believes in high-touch, high-care consulting and is always on the lookout for consultants that share this vision of recruitment.