Secretaries' Skills Rise to Meet New Challenges

Article excerpt

Jackie Kremer had never touched a computer before she took a job as secretary to the chief financial officer at Abbott Ambulance Inc. 8 1/2 years ago.

"I was scared to death the first time I took a cover off a computer," said Kremer, who has done secretarial work since she graduated from high school in 1964.

Now she's managing Abbott's office computers, evaluating software and training other people to use the machine that has replaced typewriters and ledgers at many offices. "I actually take them apart now," she says.

Kremer's metamorphosis from computer-phobe to computer expert is becoming the norm in the secretarial profession. Her job title - administrative services coordinator - suggests the growing responsibilities that secretaries are being asked to assume.

While a cordial telephone manner and the ability to get along with a cranky boss are still desirable, the willingness to learn new skills and adapt to a changing office environment is even more important, according to Professional Secretaries International, a trade group with 40,000 members worldwide. The group designates this week as Professional Secretaries Week.

"Secretaries today are making a larger contribution in the workplace than ever before," said Amelia Barclay of Macon, Ga., president of the secretaries' group. "The typical secretary today handles computer software ranging from word processing to spreadsheets to desktop publishing."

The growing computer literacy among secretaries is evident from the group's most recent survey. The survey shows that:

95 percent of secretaries handle word processing software.

73 percent operate spreadsheet programs.

46 percent use database software.

40 percent use graphics programs.

The growing responsibilities of secretaries include training, supervising other workers and making purchasing decisions.

Employers are rewarding secretaries with higher pay as a result of their added responsibilities. The average salary for members of Professional Secretaries International was $27,147 last year, up from $20,640 in 1987. Raises averaged about 6.3 percent a year in that period.

St. Louis secretaries are taking on as many responsibilities and enjoying some of the same rewards as their counterparts across the country. …