This is a partial clipping only, for a copy of the full piece please mail sadhbh at gmail dot com.
In 1500 the PA role was for men only. In the 1950s it was dominated by women and in the 1990s people thought it would soon be obsolete. But today’s PA is a valued resource and PR powerhouse, more likely to be working on a document management system than carbon-copying memos says Sadhbh Warren.
The PA role has changed in recent times - today’s office support professionals are barely recognisable from the original secretary. While the profession today is highly regarded and dominated by women, historically it’s always been about a trusted right-hand man. The term secretary was first used during the Renaissance and comes from the Latin secretum, ‘a secret’ and referred to the men – and only men - who dealt with confidential correspondence and acted as advisors to the mighty.
Women were not initially seen as candidates for this influential position. When Sir Isaac Pitman founded the first secretarial school in 1870, it was solely for male students. But as typewriters became more common in the 1880s women began to enter the field, and by the end of World War 2 - when unprecedented numbers of women entered the workplace - the role of secretary had become primarily associated with women.
The role was being re-defined and it wasn’t always appreciated. When Joan Harris, typing pool queen bee from the TV show Mad Men (set in the 1960s) summates her view, there‘s no mention of the professional; "He may act like he wants a secretary, but most of the time they're looking for something between a mother and a waitress." ...
- clip ends, to read more please email me at sadhbh at gmail dot com -