Many office workers still proud to be 'secretary'

Many office workers still proud to be 'secretary'

June 2nd, 2012 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Mad Men stars

Mad Men stars

Call it the "Mad Men" effect.

Secretaries are making a comeback, at least in name if not in number.

Thirteen years after its professional association gave up the secretary title in favor of administrative professional, more office administrators and assistants to bosses are using the secretary title. At least that was the finding of a recent survey by the International Association of Administrative Professionals, which once was known as the National Secretaries Association.

According to the IAAP's Administrative Professional Skills Benchmarking Survey, the two most popular job titles for IAAP members still were executive or administrative assistant. But the industry group survey found the third most popular moniker used by 7 percent of its members is administrative secretary.

Perhaps due to the popularity of the AMC series "Mad Men," which glamorizes the image of the secretary, the title is finding more usage in recent years.

Most of the Tennessee members of the International Association of Administrative Professionals gathered in Chattanooga this weekend say they use titles like office manager, administrative professional or executive assistant.

But many who began their careers as secretaries said they remain proud of that title, even if many of its former duties have been displaced by new office technologies.

Gladys Carr, an office manager in the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development who is expected to be elected Tennessee division president for the IAPP, said she still calls herself a secretary although her work varies from being an IT specialist, to an office teacher and manager.

Carr recalls early in her career working in a 12-person typing pool working on manual typewriters with carbon paper.

She credits the association for advancing her career and making her a more valuable and confident worker even as typewriters have been replaced by computers, shorthand has been replaced by voice recognition software and email has displaced many company mailrooms.

If elected today, she will succeed Alstom administrative professional Pam Kober as head of the 6,300-member Tennessee chapter for the IAPP.

"It's a far different field than it once was because of the changes in office technologies," said B. Jean Brandon, an office manager in the division of nursing at Tennessee State University and a former division president for IAPP. "But you still have to have the drive and the ability and desire to be organized and efficient. You have to be willing to learn because things are changing every day."

There still are an estimated 4.5 million workers employed in jobs ranging from clerks to office managers, who may once have been labeled secretaries.

Judith Yannarelli, the international vice president for IAPP, said the profession remains one of the 10 fastest-growing jobs in America "because when companies flatten their organizations and take out middle managers, administrative professionals took on bigger duties."

In the Tennessee Valley Authority, about 250 employees work as administrative professionals, according to TVA administrative professional Judy Bair.

"We're about 5 percent of the workforce and I think we help do most of the work," Bair said.