Real Careers: Is There Gender Bias in the Admin. Profession?

Readers are adding their voices to the discussion

In my Weekend Poll last Thursday, I invited readers to answer some of the same questions I’ve posed to our panelists for this series. To put gender mix into perspective, 53.5% of respondents work in environments with male admin. professionals. 89% of the group reported that the job titles and position descriptions in their offices are gender neutral.

What about men in senior assistant roles? 15.5% of respondents reported that there are male admin. professionals in their organisations’ C-Suites.


Advantages or Opportunities by Virtue of Gender?

I asked my panel members whether they’d experienced or observed any gender-related advantages or opportunities for either men or women in building a career as an admin. professional. Some panelists, both female and male, said this was not the case. One offered that men and women should be treated as equals, and here are some other comments.

The unconscious bias that is ingrained in us from a young age still remains

“I think we are seeing less overt bias in the professional world, but the unconscious bias that is ingrained in us from a young age still remains and we must work hard to counter this.”

“The only advantage I’ve seen is that, in front of house for large organisations, they prefer to have pretty females greeting guests.”

“As my entire admin career has been based at the University of Chicago, to the best of my knowledge, all advancements have either been based on merit or on collective bargaining for union-related positions.  I have worked in both (union and non-union) environments.”


Disadvantanges or Challenges by Gender?

What about the flip side? Had panelists experienced or observed any gender-related disadvantages or challenges in building a career as an admin. professional? Four of the eight panelists gave us these views.

I find them more on a cultural level

“There are still challenges that administrative professionals encounter in that many organisations view support services staff as overheads and do not provide them with the opportunity to get a helicopter view of what is happening in the business – and thus provide them with an opportunity to contribute.”

“Yes, I have been for interviews in the past where the person interviewing me was clearly expecting and wanting a woman for the role. I still believe that this profession is not considered a choice for men.”

“Previously … when I have joined a company as maternity cover and the individual returned, she did not replace me in her original job.”

“While my position at the University doesn’t reflect any challenges, I find them more on a cultural level, with professional development outside of work, and the continuing favour towards a female majority, whether it is in seminar presentations, speakers addressing an audience, event giveaways, etc.”

I asked the same question of readers in my latest Weekend Poll. More than 14% of respondents said yes, while 75% said no; they’d not experienced or observed any such disadvantages.


How can we as a profession counter such challenges?

There’s some valuable advice here; read on.

Education: a common theme

James Sobczak: Stress on an educational level, as early as high school, that the administrative profession is not just a stepping stone to something better, or “not a real job,” but both a means and an end in a life career.

Craig Harris: I think that we need show young men (and women) that working in an admin. role can be rewarding and challenging, and that there is a lot more to the role than just answering phones and typing emails. I’ve done everything from planning events to leading projects on business continuity. There are no limits to a role like mine and the variety is amazing.

Jennifer Robson: We as a profession need to be consider providing career pathways to building a career as admin. professionals, run short courses for upskilling  –  e.g., social media, human resources, basic accounting, new apps, etc.  Networking is excellent, but there must be an element of professional development.

Craig Bryson: Educate and share more on social media; this would make people more aware of what goes on in our industry.

Bianca Constance: Regardless of what disadvantages anyone suffers today at the hands of unenlightened executives, it is incumbent upon us to take charge of our careers in a variety of ways: (a) take as many online courses as you need in order to improve your hard and soft skills; (b) join a professional association for the networking, educational and leadership opportunities; (c) create a profile on LinkedIn and begin networking – also join some of the LinkedIn groups that meet your learning needs; comment on posts written by your contemporaries and don’t be afraid to write a few posts of your own as well.

Can an increased presence of men in admin. roles impact perceptions of the status of such a career?

Panel members weren’t unanimous in their views, and it’s good to consider perspectives that differ from our own. For the majority, though, the answer is yes.

Craig Bryson: Yes.

Bianca Constance: I hate to admit it but yes, I do believe that more men becoming administrative professionals will improve the status of this career simply because of the societal prejudice toward men and against women.

Craig Harris: I do; I think if there was more of a fair gender split this would have a positive effect on the profession and on the way others view the profession.

Declan Halton-Woodward: I do. I think the more men that start doing the job, the more it will increase awareness that it is a career choice. It shouldn’t take this, but here we are!

Jennifer Robson: I do believe that it would.  Although we are in 2017, unfortunately females do get paid much less than male counterparts.  We need to have greater diversity.

James Sobczak: An increase in male participation in the profession will have the positive impact of even further legitimizing such positions and validating admin work as a viable career for any who are interested in undertaking it.

Matthew Want: No.

Louise Whitehead:  Of course – unfortunately we still live in a male dominated world and, if more men were PAs, the workforce would certainly be seen as being of a higher professional status.


Do you think that an increased percentage of males in administrative roles can have any impact on compensation packages?

This is where we see an almost even split in perspectives. In the “no” camp, we have Bianca Constance, James Sobczak and Matthew Want. Their comments:

“Sadly, I don’t believe that an increase in the percentage of males in the administrative role will improve compensation packages for women – once again, due to the societal prejudices toward men and against women as the primary breadwinner when, in fact, the number of women-led households exceeds the number of male-led households.”

“Unfortunately, no, nor should it.  However, an increase in dialogue by both men and women in the profession on a united front will, hopefully, bring about such impact.”

Louise Whitehead, Jennifer Robson, Declan Halton-Woodward and Craig Bryson think otherwise. Their views?

“Absolutely – salaries are so low only because it has traditionally been a female job.”

“This is a bit of a chicken and the egg problem. I think we need to increase the compensation packages in order to legitimize the profession and to get more males doing the role, and this will in term help bump up the packages.”

“From experience, males are paid more than females. By increasing the percentage of males in this industry, we would be able to close the gender pay gap.”



We’ll be looking at the role of professional networks and associations for female and male admin. professionals.

Interested in more on today’s admin. career? Here are other articles to date in this series

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