As the work force expanded during and following World War II, secretaries became an essential part of the growing economy. Though traditionally thought of as a job for women during the transition from de facto homemaker, the profession has evolved in title, responsibilities and diversity. April 23 is Administrative Professionals’ Day 2014, an excellent opportunity to surprise administrative employees with personalized business gifts.
National Secretaries Week, the precursor to Administrative Professionals’ Day, was launched in 1952. It was organized by the National Secretaries Association in conjunction with office product manufacturers. Mary Barrett, president of the National Secretaries Association at the time, partook in a council that focused on increasing the availability of skilled office workers. The National Secretaries Association eventually became the International Association of Administrative Professionals as the term secretary was used less commonly.
The holiday was inspired by a desire to show appreciation for the work administrative professionals do to help a business be successful, as well as an attempt to draw more people into the profession. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer declared June 1 to 7, 1952 the first National Secretaries Week with the official day falling on June 4. For the past 64 years, administrative professionals have been honored during the last week of April with the main day of celebration planned for that Wednesday.
Lynn Peril, a lifelong secretary who penned a book about how the profession has progressed, went on National Public Radio to share her experiences. Peril mentioned how being a secretary was a large advancement from being a housewife in the mid-20th century. Women often began as stenographers then strived to be a personal or executive secretary. According to Peril, the title of secretary developed a negative connotation as the idea of an “office wife” entered corporate culture. The assumption was that secretaries were to be well-dressed and attractive women who would bring coffee or food, take directions from a male boss and keep the office clean.
The IAAP defines administrative professionals as “individuals who are responsible for administrative tasks and coordination of information in support of an office-related environment” as well as “dedicated to furthering their personal and professional growth.” The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reported more than 4 million administrative assistants and another 8.8 million employees who hold general administrative positions in the current work force. Alternate titles for the role are administrative assistance, office coordinator, office manager, executive assistant and administrative specialist.
Five-hundred employers took a survey through the employee recruitment group Manpower regarding the role of administrative professionals in their businesses. According to the results, 98 percent of participants acknowledge an evolution of the profession just in the past 5 to 10 years. It was confirmed that there is more of a need for administrative professionals to use technology competently and contribute strategic thinking to the company. Roughly 85 percent of employers said it would be difficult to find a quality administrative assistant if they need to hire one and 71 percent view secretaries as an important part of the business’s employee base. Some jobs that administrative assistants perform, according to employers, are presentation organization, communication with suppliers and clients, statistics reporting and team engagement.
The celebration of administrative professionals goes beyond an office party or thank you note. The IAAP markets the week as an opportunity to show secretaries how they can develop their careers and demonstrate the company’s commitment to supporting their assistants. This can be done by covering dues for a membership in a professional organization or the entrance fee for conferences and seminars. Some employers offer full or reduced tuition for their employees to take individual classes or work toward a higher degree. In a similar vein, professional certificate programs and online training can be offered for free.
It’s still a nice gesture to acknowledge the value of an administrative assistant through thank you gifts. Personalized pens and notepads make lovely additions to administrative professionals’ workspace.