Where are the Men in the Admin Profession?
Every quarter we get together at a C&C Search EA Leaders roundtable, where we discuss changes and challenges facing the profession.
A rising tide lifts all boats, so we want to ensure that we share our outcomes far and wide, so that you too can use these as rocket fuel for the profession!
This month we focussed on Men in the Profession and why are there so few?
Let’s begin with a simple question, “when you think of an Executive/Personal Assistant, what’s their gender?” Is it a male or female?
The Admin profession in the UK is almost 80% female. Men make up only 1 percent of members in the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), and no more than 5 percent of the total US population of administrative assistants, says Rick Stroud, IAAP's communications manager. We know that diverse teams bring a wider range of information and perspectives to the table, which results in better decision-making and better overall outcomes. By attracting and retaining a diverse range of staff, businesses can identify opportunities and explore new solutions. Developing, implementing and promoting a diversity strategy is the challenge employers now face.
What we are hearing from our clients consistently is that there is a need to address this imbalance and a desire to hire more male admins, but they are almost impossible to secure.
So, why is this and what can we do to change this imbalance was the focus of our discussion.
Administration is often seen as ‘women’s work’. If a man is found in one of these roles, then they may be seen as working beneath their skill level. Such stereotyping still dominates in the profession. But why is this? Why is admin seen as women’s work and how do we change the narrative so that we can have a more gender balance admin profession.
We took away these key actions from our talk that we could all start to create the change we want to see.
Without realising it, we all use language that is subtly ‘gender-coded’. Society has certain expectations of what men and women are like, and how they differ, and this seeps into the language we use. Check the tone you are using and the language, use AI such as Unitive or Texio. Researching new approaches such as gamification, bias language proofing tools and web crawler software could help employers looking to diversify their workforce.
Insist your recruitment or search firm are providing balanced and diverse shortlists, ask what their strategy is to ensure they have a diverse candidate pool. Many employers and recruitment agencies continue to use the same methods and as a result attract similar candidates.
Job descriptions provide an outline of a role's main responsibilities and can help to attract new talent and will certainly play a huge role in attracting diverse talent, but they need to be "live documents" subject to regular review. It's not just a case of keeping the standard text spruced up ready for the next hire. Instead, they should be consulted frequently and used to support career development and growth.
Reducing unconscious bias
Employers may need to address unconscious bias among their own staff; assumptions which they make about the suitability of a candidate during the recruitment process based on factors which are not related to the role such as age, gender or background. Given the significant impact these biases can have on how hiring managers will assess candidates, countering them should be considered a priority.
Can we be more creative with our titles, we still see the word Secretary being used, we need to start looking at less stereotyped titles. Research commissioned by the jobs site TotalJobs found language can skew applications by gender. Advertisements looking for PAs to provide “support” and “understanding” may deter men from applying.
Highlight male EAs
We need companies to highlight their male EAs whether it’s on careers sites, in blogs or on social media. We need men to see that this is a valuable career path with enormous impact potential.
Camino asked some great questions to Male EAs, and we thought these would be great to share:
What do you think could be done to redress the gender imbalance of EA/PAs?”
Scott Chapman, Personal Assistant at The Guardian
“This is a really interesting question and I think there’s a lot to discuss here! I think a big thing to do with it is the term ‘assistant’. For some reason, it has female connotations and I think this puts off a lot of male applicants. I’ve heard of a company which calls their EAs/PAs ‘Business Admin Managers’ or something along those lines, which highlights how varied the role can be and the level of responsibilities that assistants have. Apart from that, I think more networking events involving male assistants would be a great way to attract interest to the industry and for people to find out a bit more about what actually goes into being an assistant!”
Will Graham, , Personal Assistant at Liz Lean PR
“Recruitment companies need to stop allowing companies to push this unhealthy agenda for a female PA and support staff. Voices need to be heard and people need to speak up. I think that gender balance needs to be a bigger conversation across society, and we need to think about this as a balance - not as a redressing of X or Y. We, as a nation, need to think about the job, the role, not the preconceived idea of something. Failing that, an all-out strike could help... joking! (ish!)”
Craig Bryson, , Executive Assistant at Korn Ferry
“My opinion would be to firstly, stop organisers arranging events with images of Wonder Women, pink and fluffy networking events, this should be gender neutral. Having a stand promoting this role at high schools, universities and colleges. This would help spread the word and change the perception of this job at an earlier stage. While I was at EPAA, we had put together an all-male group discussion, which was filmed (a copy of this is on my LinkedIn profile, with articles from Financial Times and The Sun). This would help with more information. We were campaigning #Notjustagirlsjob – finding male EAs of high profiled executives to come and speak at gender neutral events. Did you know that during the second world war, men were EAs, and the women were typists/secretaries? The men were then called up to the frontline, and the women automatically filled the EA roles. This has never changed since.”
Let us know your thoughts and what this has raised for you: firstname.lastname@example.org / 02034753885