by Lucy Brazier
In the UK, we don’t have Administrative Professionals Day or Week. Europe has Management Assistant Day in April, Africa has Secretaries Day in September and the UK used to have PA Day which ran alongside our major trade show for Assistants, but APW is mainly a US phenomenon.
There has been much press in recent weeks around whether Administrative Professionals Week should be abolished.
Certainly, assistants deserve recognition. After all, they serve a key role in keeping organizations functioning efficiently. In 87 percent of cases, executives said they wouldn’t be able to perform their jobs without them.
But assistants deserve the recognition all year round. To have a specific day for assistants, when we don’t have one for accountants, salespeople, webmasters, etc. separates the role from those of our professional peers and trivializes the role. It adds to the very problem that it was created to address by suggesting it is OK to give a card, flowers, or lunch once a year in recognition rather than year-long professional respect.
There is a gender component here, too. 98 percent of assistants are women. Many of the traditional gifts for the day—flowers, perfume, and trinkets tend to be gendered in our culture. Wouldn’t we rather have year-round respect and recognition, proper pay, and professional development instead of a card and chocolates?
I have written endlessly about the change in the role since the recession. It was proven beyond doubt in 2014 that assistants are the new middle management and yet most have not had a pay increase or the training needed to ensure they can support their executives at the highest level. Our responsibilities and job roles have increased beyond anything we could have foreseen 10 years ago. This profession is in a state of flux. It is as if someone has taken a deck of playing cards and thrown them in the air. We are waiting to see where they land. But one thing is for sure. We need to professionalize how we are seen.
Globally, there is a huge movement to change the perception of assistants and our role. It is no longer tea and typing. 1 in 10 executives now sees their assistant as equivalent to someone that sits on their board in terms of importance and contribution.
So here is a thought for Administrative Professionals Week. Let’s use it to increase the kudos of the role. Let’s ensure that the press is full of articles about the changing role, the lack of clear career progression, the work we do every day. Of the things we ACTUALLY do—the project management, strategy, research, planning, finance, events as well as the more traditional calendar and email management, travel, and minute taking. Let’s use it to campaign for recognition of the assistant not ‘assisting’ but ‘doing’. Let’s talk about the 25 percent average more work you are doing since the recession and the remuneration you should be receiving. And let’s use it to leverage the training you need in order to do your job to the best of your ability to ensure your career development.
Hearts, flowers, lunches, and celebration is wonderful but let’s use Administrative Professionals Week to drive the change that we want for the future of our profession.
CEO, Marcham Publishing | Publisher of Executive Secretary Magazine | International Speaker | Conference Chair | Expert on the Administrative Sector