Take a Letter, Mr Jones; OFFICE STYLE More Men Are Entering What Was Once an Exclusively Female Domain. Jo Ind Meets One of the Country's Growing Band of Male Secretaries
Ind, Jo, The Birmingham Post (England)
Just as women are being appointed to jobs for the boys, so men are now landing jobs for the girls.
Temping and secretarial work, which once was an exclusively female domain, is increasingly being taken up by their male counterparts.
Nationwide, the number of men in temping jobs has doubled since 1984 and recruitment agency Office Angels says that about 25 per cent of the people on its books are now men.
This means that men are finding work as secretaries and in customer services, accounts and general keyboard skills.
Lindsey Petrie, West Midlands regional manager for Office Angels, says there are several reasons why this is happening.
In general, temping is becoming more important as flexible working is becoming the way of business.
Latest figures show that 70 per cent of women aged between 16 and 59 are now working, compared with 56 per cent in 1971. Of those more than half want to job share.
Now, businesses are surviving on the basis of their ability to be flexible and there is a skills shortage at temping agencies with six vacancies for every one applicant.
The culture of the office is changing.
"Another difference is the advent of computers," says Lindsey. "In 1991 only 3.5 per cent of men were qwerty-adept, which means they knew how to use a keyboard.
"But in 1997, 85 per cent of school leavers had basic keyboard skills."
That means that young men are finding using a keyboard an ordinary rather than an alien experience.
A third factor is that jobs in industry for men are not as secure as they once were. With the demise of jobs for life, men are looking to acquire a wider range of skills.
"There is what we call a flat hierarchy where people increase their skills on a horizontal basis," says Lindsey.
It's becoming common for students of both sexes who have keyboard skills to take on temping jobs for extra cash and then carry on temping after graduation as a way of getting into a particular industry.
Another factor is the change in the role of a secretary generally. "We've identified this as the role of the executary," said Lindsey.
"The traditional secretary is fast disappearing. During the recession, a lot of the junior managers were fired, leaving those with the keyboard skills taking on extra responsibilities.
"They would be responsible for some serious levels of recruitment or work on a project with a group of managers to develop the business."
As a result the status of being a secretary has changed. It is not seen as a lowly woman's job any more.
Lindsey is very positive about male secretaries. "I'd like to have more. It adds a nice healthy balance to a work force, the more the merrier."
But others are not so keen.
A study of 450 female secretaries and administration staff across the UK found nearly two-thirds thought a male secretary was more likely to be promoted into an executive position than a woman doing a similar job.
And 56 per cent of the women questioned believed this was a major reason why men entered the profession in the first place. …