Secretary is a professional in management with an emphasis on communication . Secretaries usually do general office and assistance tasks, in particular correspondence and area-related commercial- administrative activities.
While the profession was almost exclusively performed by men until the middle of the 19th century, this gradually changed in the second half of the 19th century. This change accelerated towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries when the number of office workers increased sharply. Today almost exclusively women work as secretaries. The profession was initially regarded as one of the few qualified professions that were open to women and offered them the opportunity of hierarchical advancement within a company or an authority. In the course of the second half of the 20th century, the number of voices criticizing the limited opportunities for development of the profession increased.
Secretary is derived from the Latin secretio , which found its way into the German language via the French secrétaire . As the word origin also suggests ( secretio or secretum "apart from the public" within the meaning of "in secret" or) a designated secretary originally a clerk or secretary or write or record keeper , which thereby also secrets' of certain institutions or places was inaugurated (e.g. at royal courts). A secretariat was the office of a secretary or a clerk's shop, a clerk's office or a law firm , such as a court clerk or a town clerk.
Training and work area
Federal Republic of Germany
In Germany, commercial training usually leads to this profession in the office . In industry, trade, craft and public service, the training occupation is called office management clerk (formerly office communication clerk, office assistant , public service specialist for office communication , steno secretary , office assistant ). In addition to commercial and administrative activities, secretaries should also mainly deal with general office tasks, particularly those relating to correspondence. They are employed in the administrative departments of companies in all sectors of the economy. But there are also jobs in public administration and in associations , as well as in the health sector. Through special training courses and further training opportunities, secretaries can also advance to become specialists in law firms and notaries' offices . In addition, there is advanced training to become a specialist in office management .
The training to become a certified secretary in the GDR was a binding qualification program for acquiring the certificate of proficiency as a secretary, which with effect from January 1, 1974 replaced the training documents that had been valid until then. Corresponding courses were held at adult education centers and company academies. The basic prerequisites for participation were a professional qualification as a skilled worker for writing technology , as an economist or as a financial clerk as well as proof of 140 syllables / minute in shorthand and 250 characters / minute in typing. This training was intended in particular for proven specialists and was based on special examination regulations. The obligatory timetable provided for 288 teaching hours to be completed on 38 teaching days as a rule over a year. A topic to be proposed by the delegating company was to be processed as documentary work. 160 syllables / minute and 300 characters / minute were required for technical writing skills. The economic responsibility for the content of the secretary qualification lay with the Institute for Education and Training in Construction .
The feminization of the job description
For much of the 19th century, businesses were small - apart from insurance companies and banks, few companies had offices in more than one city. The majority of the business activities of most companies were limited to the town and the immediate vicinity. The tasks of an office worker in such a company included, among other things, writing letters, keeping business books and filing business correspondence - tasks that are still associated with the activities of a secretary to this day. The copying of business letters took up a lot of space - a process caricatured by Herman Melville in his novella Bartleby the scribe . Due to the small size of typical companies, an office worker got to know all the company's processes from the bottom up through this work and could therefore assume that there was a chance of advancement within the hierarchy of the company.
The first female office workers
For women, the possibility of having paid work in the office opened up in the second half of the 19th century. The US government first began employing women in its offices in the 1860s when male labor was scarce due to the Civil War . Leading the way was Francis Elias Spinner , the Treasurer of the United States , who hired women to sort and package stocks and bills. Women turned out to be not only able but also inexpensive workers. As early as 1869, Francis E. Spinner stated with satisfaction:
"Some of these women do more and better work for $ 900 a year than some male employees who are paid double the salary"
Employment of women in the office quickly became widespread. In 1870, of 80,000 office workers in the United States, only 3 percent were women. In 1920 there were a total of three million office workers, of which nearly half were female. Women were primarily placed in specific positions in which they very soon ousted men. Shorthand was one of these areas of activity: taking a dictation and writing it down was considered a simple task that did not require any initiative, and women seemed particularly suitable according to the conception of gender roles at the time . But secretarial work, which was considered more demanding, was soon assigned predominantly to women. A sociologist who investigated the occupations in which women were employed in the Cleveland area in 1925 found that only railroad companies and utilities still employed men as secretaries. This change had become apparent very early: Even the first typewriters that came on the market in the 1870s were mainly marketed with advertisements showing female typists . While the number of office workers rose sharply at the same time, there was increasingly a gender-related dichotomy in the area of responsibility. In 1925 WH Leffingwell wrote, who carried Taylorism to the office world:
“A woman is the preferred occupation for the position of secretary, as she is not afraid to carry out small tasks or to take on tasks that involve dealing with negligible details. These would annoy and irritate ambitious young men who usually feel that work is of no importance if it could be done by a person on a lower wage. "
Marital status and secretarial schools
For a long time employers preferred unmarried women, a notion that resonated with governments and unions when jobs were scarce in difficult economic times. During the 1930s, a number of states and the federal government in the United States attempted to legally exclude married women from employment , with support from unions advocating for “family wages” - a wage that a married woman would receive Giving a husband sufficient income to support both a household-looking wife and a group of children. All legislative initiatives that wanted to create a legal basis for such discrimination ultimately failed. But employers tried to exclude married women from employment even without a legal basis. In a 1940 poll, 40 percent of 485 US companies surveyed said they had clear regulations banning married women from employment with them. The reason given was that married women would soon leave their position, and if they stayed in their position, because of their domestic and family responsibilities, their paid work would not pay the attention that would be expected of an unmarried woman. Many of the women working in the office therefore lied about their marital status .
Until the career opportunities for women gradually expanded in the mid-1970s, shorthand skills and typing gave them the opportunity to use this knowledge to find a job, even if they had completed an education that would have offered them other jobs without gender-specific discrimination. Compared to working as a nurse or teacher, the entry requirements for the job of a secretary were low: after graduation, shorthand and typing skills could be learned in courses lasting several weeks, if necessary, and allowed entry into a shorthand or writing pool. Private schools that offered courses in typing, for example, existed as early as the 1880s. Most of these courses were very quickly attended by women. Twenty-five percent of the students at Chicago's Metropolitan Business College in the 1892/1893 school year were female - however, 90 percent of students in the shorthand and typing classes were female. Around this time, the first pure secretarial schools were founded. From 1911, the school run by Katharine Gibbs developed into one of the best-known North American school for secretaries. It had strict admission criteria, required at least a high school diploma from its students , but preferred a college diploma. The graduates of this school were known as the Katie Gibbs Girls . In her history of the secretarial profession, Lynn Peril describes this school with its notoriously tough training as the "Harvard School" of secretaries, but at the same time mocks its graduates as office geishas. Schoolgirls were encouraged to wear dresses to the office and only to wear hats and white gloves in public. In addition to excellent shorthand and typewriter skills, they should be able to handle any office situation elegantly and charmingly and be loyal to their superiors. For a long time, the school only taught women; it was not until the 1960s that it accepted a man for the first time.
As early as the 1930s, the New York Times stated that young women were clasped by the typewriter like an octopus and that, because of their gender, they were denied any opportunity for advancement. Until the 1960s it was repeatedly recorded in various media that women would become more aggressive and dominant through "unfeminine" work that would not correspond to their "natural gender role" and - for example, the bestseller Modern Woman , published in 1947, claimed : The Lost Sex - would be driven into a personality conflict that can only be cured through psychotherapy. The work of a secretary was one of the activities compatible with women - at least until they were married. Much like nursing or nursery school work, this work should correspond to your natural disposition to worry about things. As recently as 1965, Lucy Mayo wrote in You Can Be An Executive Secretary (Eng. You could be a board secretary ):
“Occasionally, your choice of profession is a compromise between idealism and realism ... For example, you might decide to become the secretary of a lawyer, doctor or scientist because you once dreamed of becoming a lawyer or scientist yourself. "
Mary Wollstonecraft had lamented the limited job opportunities for women as early as the late 18th century, and similar protests had been heard throughout the 19th. The voices had become more audible over the course of the 20th century. In 1963, Betty Friedan's bestseller The Feminine Mystique appeared , which vehemently attacked this reduction of women to their role as mother and housewife and was very widely heard. When demonstrations against the Miss America elections taking place there took place in Atlanta on September 7, 1968, the protesters threw bras, hip belts, false eyelashes, women's magazines, shorthand pads and instructions for typing as a symbol of female oppression in the trash cans. Two years later, 60 women occupied the entrance hall of the Katharine Gibbs School in Manhattan to protest against the fact that training in such secretarial schools only prepares women for a service role in business life. Almost at the same time, the American Management Association concluded that ambitious and able women were increasingly reluctant to work as secretaries because the profession was considered a dead end. In 1979, a marketing expert noted that women who would have previously trained at the Katharine Gibbs School are now aiming for qualified degrees. In the 1970s, women opened up a range of new employment opportunities, some of which were paid significantly better. A semi-skilled factory worker was paid significantly better than a secretary in the late 1970s.
According to estimates by the Federal Association of Secretariat and Office Management , the proportion of men was five percent in 2018.
Secretary as a function
Secretaries in general
A secretary, on the other hand, is the function that someone performs in the organization. A first secretary is a person who is authorized to issue instructions in an authority. Management secretaries, on the other hand, are civil servants or employees who report directly to a head of authority or a directorate and who assist him and are usually also authorized to issue instructions .
Secretaries in politics and the public
The general secretary and the party secretary , like the union secretary, carry out management functions in their party or organization. State secretaries are either members of the government subordinate to the minister or the highest official in the ministry or a supreme authority.
A private secretary is tasked with organizing the office of a leader and usually has extensive expertise and authority. As a rule, he has a particularly close relationship of trust with his superior and therefore also deals with private or very important issues of the higher-ranking personality.
- Foreign Language Secretary
- Court secretary (employee or head of the court registry )
- Legal Secretary
- State Secretary
- Parish clerk
- Secretary in official titles
- Seidler, Münk: We notice everything . In: Die Zeit , No. 43/2006 (Two chief secretaries on rituals, manners and trust in the antechamber of power - a dispute)
- Secretaries SERVICE . Trade journal, GWI Gesellschaft für Wirtschaftsinformation,
- Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool: A Retro Guide to Making It in the Office. WW Norton & Company, New York 2011, ISBN 978-0-393-33854-6 .
- Heide Sommer: Let me do it. Five decades as the secretary of famous men , Ullstein Verlag, Berlin 2019, 256 pages, ISBN 978-3-55020016-8 .
Individual evidence for the secretariat
- Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool: A Retro Guide to Making It in the Office. WW Norton & Company, New York 2011, ISBN 978-0-393-33854-6 . Introduction, Ebook position 139
- Secretary  . In: Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon . 6th edition. Volume 18, Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig / Vienna 1909, p. 310 .
- Secretary . In: Brockhaus' Kleines Konversations-Lexikon . 5th edition. Volume 2, F. A. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1911, p. 685 .
- Secretary . Federal agency for work. October 9, 2009. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
- assistant (IH) . Federal Institute for Vocational Training. Accessed on October 10, 2009. ( Page no longer available , search in web archives ) Info: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.
- Everything about secretaries . Time online. October 18, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
- Nikil Saval: Cubed - A Secret History of the Workplace . Doubleday, New York 2014, ISBN 978-0-385-53658-5 , chapter: The White-Blouse Revolution , Ebook position 1235. The original quote is Some of the Ever Are Doing More and Better Work for $ 900 per annum than many male clerks who were paid double that amount .
- Nikil Saval: Cubed - A Secret History of the Workplace . Doubleday, New York 2014, ISBN 978-0-385-53658-5 , chapter The White-Blouse Revolution , Ebook item 1235.
- Nikil Saval: Cubed - A Secret History of the Workplace . Doubleday, New York 2014, ISBN 978-0-385-53658-5 , chapter The White-Blouse Revolution , Ebook item 1243.
- Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool . Chapter Stepping Stone or Millstone? Ebook position 3089.
- Nikil Saval: Cubed - A Secret History of the Workplace . Doubleday, New York 2014, ISBN 978-0-385-53658-5 , chapter: The White-Blouse Revolution , Ebook-Position 1267. The original quote is: A woman is to be preferred to the secretarial position for she is not averse to doing minor talks, which would irk and irritate ambitious young men, who usually feel that the work they are Joint is of no importance if it can be performed by some person with a lower salary,
- Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool . Chapter Single Secs, Married Secs, and the Looping Shadow of the Office Wife . Ebook position 2515.
- Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool . Chapter Single Secs, Married Secs, and the Looping Shadow of the Office Wife . Ebook position 2531.
- Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool . Chapter Single Secs, Married Secs, and the Looping Shadow of the Office Wife . Ebook position 2449.
- Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool . Chapter So You Want to Be a Secretary . Ebook position 529.
- Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool . Chapter So You Want to Be a Secretary . Ebook position 685.
- Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool . Chapter So You Want to Be a Secretary . Ebook position 702.
- Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool . Chapter So You Want to Be a Secretary . Ebook positions 749, 796.
- Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool . Chapter So You Want to Be a Secretary . Ebook position 796.
- Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool . Chapter So You Want to Be a Secretary . Ebook position 552.
- Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool . Chapter So You Want to Be a Secretary . Ebook position 593.
- quoted from Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool . Chapter So You Want to Be a Secretary . Ebook position 576. The original quote is: Sometimes career choice is a compromise between idealism and realism… You might, for instance, choose tob ea lawyer's or a doctor's or a scientist's secretary because you once hoped to be a lawyer or doctor or scientist.
- The mania for femininity. A vehement protest against the ideal of women . Rowohlt, Reinbek 1966; New edition ibid. 1975, ISBN 3-499-16721-2 .
- One of the lingering legends is that bras were burned during this protest. In fact, this was originally planned as part of the demonstration. However, as part of the demonstration permit, this was rejected by the city administration. See Peril, Ebook position 3449
- Lynn Peril: Swimming in the Steno Pool . Chapter Stepping Stone or Millstone: The Liberated Secratary . Ebook position 3467.
- Benedikt Weis, interviewed by Benjamin Haerdle: "I am a passionate service provider". In: sueddeutsche.de . March 15, 2018, accessed March 16, 2018 .
- A life by the side of powerful men , deutschlandfunkkultur.de, accessed September 2, 2019