Re: secretary's day

Subject: Re: secretary's day
From: "Cook, Cynthia (NCI)" <cookc -at- DCBDC31 -dot- NCI -dot- NIH -dot- GOV>
Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 12:03:29 -0400


Delurking to add some more heat and possibly a little light.

While I agree the person sending the card to Melissa probably "meant well",
and should be treated accordingly, this is definitely a misperception that
needs to be corrected. Laurel (and others) are right. You would not have
been mistaken for a secretary if you had been a male.

On my first tech writing job, I was the only female on a proposal team --
the admin assistant was a male -- so guess who EVERYONE in the company
assumed was the admin assistant on the team? Me, of course. I soon got tired
of politely pointing them to the right person, but I kept doing it because I
was young and new at tech writing and basically just glad to have a job. BUT
because I never made my real position clear, I eventually became de facto
admin. When I complained to my (female) manager, she said that if I didn't
want admin responsibilities, I must not be a team player. After all, our
male admin assistant deserved to have meatier assignments too! (I didn't
have a problem with that, just that I was expected to pick up his slack.) In
other words, I shouldn't mind doing admin work, but he couldn't be expected
to "put up" with doing all of it, despite his job title, because men
shouldn't have to. That attitude didn't change until I left the company.

Melissa, I know that this is a difficult situation, and I sympathize. I
realize that you are in a better position than the one I described above.
However, letting this one lie is costly to you and professional women at
large because it allows the idea to persist that admin duties are strictly
"women's work" and that most working women are some form or other of

An aside--I don't want to imply that being "just" a secretary should be
worthy of contempt or discrimination. I could not handle the tremendous
amount of organizing and scheduling and facilitating that the secretaries in
my office handle every day. And my mom was a damn fine secretary for her
entire career -- she specialized in being the "great woman behind the great
man" for the executives she worked for. She couldn't have done that without
smarts and skills.

I guess I'm just upset about this in particular because the other day
someone looking for my boss (apparently not noticing that the secretary's
desk outside his office) stuck his head in my male co-worker's office
looking for assistance, ignored him, then looked in MY office next door and
asked if *I* was my boss's secretary (I'm the Webmaster/content developer).
Maybe this shouldn't bother me (innocent mistake?), but I'm tired of the
mistaken identity. My husband suggests attaching a neon sign to my forehead
with my real job title on it. :^>

Good luck,
Cynthia Robertson

From: Laurel Nelson[SMTP:Laurel_Y_Nelson -at- NOTES -dot- SEAGATE -dot- COM]
Reply To: Laurel_Y_Nelson -at- NOTES -dot- SEAGATE -dot- COM
Sent: Wednesday, April 22, 1998 11:13 AM
Subject: Re: secretary's day

Melissa: If you were a guy, no one would have mistakenly considered
you to
be a secretary. You have a right to be insulted. It's time this
person found out you aren't a secretary. If you let this slide, you
expect more of the same treatment in the future.

As a side note, I was a secretary before I went to college and got
tech writing. I hated Secretary's Day. The last two years I was on
the job,
I told the people I supported that Secretary's Day could be a
Forgotten Day
in our division. In my opinion, employers came up with that ghastly
tradition to relieve them of the guilt they felt for underpaying
office support. In my last secretarial job, I was making almost as
much as
some of the degreed staff, so I didn't feel that they had to put on
special hoopla for me.

Laurel Nelson

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