Professional Networks & Their Influence on Perceptions

Professional associations and networks 

With the help of Craig Bryson, Bianca Constance, Craig Harris, Declan Halton-Woodward, Jennifer Robson, Matthew Want, James Sobczak, Louise Whitehead and readers who participate in my Weekend Polls, we’re in the midst of an environmental scan of the admin. profession.

We’ve had a brief look back at the history of the profession, and the presence of men in administrative roles. People have offered their thoughts on the presence (or absence) of gender bias, and this week we’re looking at the roles that professional associations and networks have to play in influencing perceptions.

IAAP trade show Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

Our Panel Members’ Involvement in Professional Associations

I asked our group to identify any professional networks or peer associations to which they belong.

Craig Bryson is a member of The PA Club and EPAA, the Executive & Personal Assistants Association. Craig also serves on EPAA’s General Advisory Board. He estimates that 3% of members in both associations are male.

Bianca Constance is active in three such associations: the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), American Society of Administrative Professionals (ASAP), and Philanthropy New York’s Philanthropic Assistants & Coordinators Network (PACNET). Her estimate is that 10 – 15% of the members are male.

Craig Harris is a member of both EPAA and The Charity PA Network. What’s the male representation amongst members? “I know that there are a few who work with EPAA and this is why they are championing the #NotJustAGirlsJob campaign, which I’m hoping to be involved with as much as I possibly can. Victoria Darragh, the CEO of EPAA, is very passionate about closing the gender split in our profession and I look forward to working with her on this.”

Declan Halton-Woodward is a member of both PA Life Club and the London Chamber of Commerce PA Club. His take on male membership? “Very few, though I do not know for sure. I go to a lot of EA/PA events and find that there are usually only a few males in the room (or I am the only one!).”

Jennifer Robson is active in two external associations, Executive Assistants Network (EAN) and Melbourne Executive Assistant Group (MEAG). She’s also been involved in an internal network,  Directions Group. Her take? “Disappointing to report that in the past couple of years I have rarely come across a male admin professional.”

James Sobczak is another member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals [IAAP]. This is a large association. As to male membership: “I don’t know the exact percentage, but my guess is that it is no more than 10%.”

Matthew Want is another EPAA  member. He’s also involved in International Management Assistants (IMA), which is transitioning this month from its former identity, European Management Assistants (EUMA). Matthew estimates that 5% of IMA’s members are male, and that the percentage within EPAA is 20% .

Louise Whitehead is also active in both  Executive Personal Assistants Association (EPAA) and The PA Hub.



Leadership within these associations

Approximately 17% of EPAA’s Directors are male. Louise Whitehead notes, “EPAA are careful to have male representation on the Boards (it has both Regional and General boards) as well as female.”

Of his other network, Craig Harris says, “The Charity PA Network is still in the early stages and is run by two amazing women PAs. I know that they would definitely love to have more men involved.”

In the US, Bianca Constance estimates, “Sadly, only 1%” of the leaders of her associations are male. James Sobczak observes, “At the present time, I don’t believe there are any males in a leadership role in my association, though there have been in the past.”

Do these panelists feel welcome in such networks and associations?

Craig Bryson: Very welcome, the ladies always ask where all the males are.

Bianca Constance: Yes, I do feel welcome in all the professional/peer networks and associations with which I am affiliated.

Craig Harris: Yes. Of course, I’m a little nervous when I walk in a room and I’m the only man, but I never feel not welcome – and being a very confident person, I don’t think about it for too long.

Declan Halton-Woodward: Yes, though I do think they are predominantly geared toward women in terms of their advertising, the type of events, and even the colour schemes and logos (think lots of pink, silhouettes of women, etc.).

Jennifer Robson: I do feel welcomed

James Sobczak: I am welcomed and made to feel welcome at all times.

Matthew Want:  Always. Everyone is involved for the same reasons: to network, build connections and help fellow administrative professionals.

Louise Whitehead: Yes.

Have our panelists held leadership roles in such organisations?

Each of Craig Bryson, Bianca Constance, James Sobczak, Matthew Want and Louise Whitehead have held such roles. Here’s what they had to say.

Craig Bryson: Yes, currently in EPAA

Bianca Constance: Yes, within the International Association of Administrative Professionals I have held leadership positions on the chapter level (secretary, vice president and president), on the division level (treasurer, vice president and president) and on the International level where I was the Northeast District Director. Currently, I serve on the Board of Directors for The Foundation of IAAP as Secretary.  On the local level, I serve on the Steering Committee for Philanthropy New York’s Philanthropic Assistants and Coordinators Network.

James Sobczak: I have served both as Vice-President and Corresponding Secretary for my association’s local chapter.

Matthew Want: I was a key organizer for the EUMA 39th Annual Conference held in London in 2013.

Louise Whitehead: Yes – I’m a Non-Exec Director of EPAA and sit on the National Advisory Board.

Craig Harris: I haven’t, but who knows what the future may hold. I think that the important thing is the associations and network groups I’m a part of are being run by the right people and they are doing amazing things, that’s all that matters.

What can networks and associations do to ensure all members feel welcomed and encouraged to actively participate?

Craig Bryson: Stop using Wonder Women or Supergirl, pink, fluffy marketing material to promote their association. Men are not interested in this. We prefer to have something that makes us proud to be a part of a network event.

Shelagh’s note to Craig: You’re in good company, Craig. I think a number of female admin. professionals feel the same way!

Bianca Constance: Encourage everyone to step up into leadership positions or even just add their voice to the collective discussion.

Declan Halton-Woodward: I think that they need to work on their promotional materials to ensure they are gender neutral, and also participate in campaigns such as the ‘#NotJustAGirlsJob’ by EPPA (Executive and Personal Assistants Association).

Jennifer Robson: Develop a system which can identify first time attendees to ensure that, at their first attendance at an event ,they are made to feel welcome and included.  This will encourage them to return, participate and contribute.

James Sobczak: Be cognizant of the pendulous swing of society and culture moving back to accepting men in such roles; try different events in order to garner the interest of, not just male members, but “on-paper-only” members, and members of different generations to increase attendance, and with that, participation.

Matthew Want: Keep up to date with the times; it is essential that you find out what your members what from the association

Louise Whitehead: Ensure new joiners have a buddy to show them around, introduce them to others and generally make them feel comfortable. Open up non-PA networks to administrative professional and actively invite admin professionals to join.


We’ll be tackling stereotypes of the profession, and looking at the benefits of greater gender balance in the profession.

Want to catch up on the series? Here’s everything to date:
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