The ‘Not Just a Girls Job’ is a campaign brought to you by EPAA UK, which aims to challenge common assumptions and perceptions of the EA/PA/Secretary role being a career just for women.
Statistics used by the EA/PA profession over the last few years have placed the gender split as high as 97% female to 3% male for the UK! There are very few professions that operate under a similar percentage and have this ratio of women to men.
At EPAA, we believe a better gender ratio will make for an enriched profession and our mission is simple – we want to inspire boys and men to consider the profession as a credible career choice and remove some of the stereotypes associated with the roles under the administrative umbrella.
Our campaign will seek to decrease this split over time, using a range of awareness raising initiatives in addition to educating the world of work at large on why this is a gender-neutral role.
The first stage of our campaign will showcase Male EAs and PAs who already undertake one of these roles and their career journeys. More information to be released shortly.
At EPAA, one of our aims is to ‘change and challenge the PA/EA landscape’ for the benefit of those both within and outside of our community. One of the ways that we are working to fulfil this goal is through our campaigns, including our ‘Not just a girl’s job’ campaign.
The gender split within the EA/PA/Secretarial field currently stands at around 97% Female vs. 3% Male, and although workplaces in the UK have taken steps over the past few decades to embrace diversity and value talent the role of the EA and PA is still widely considered to be a ’female’ position, potentially preventing qualified, talented and capable men from actively pursue a rewarding career in this field.
As part of our ‘Not just a girl’s job’ campaign, we recently conducted a survey on the issue of gender stereotypes in the EA/PA field, and received more than 50 responses from male Executive and Personal Assistants from across Europe, North America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region.
The results of EPAA’s survey revealed that 42% of participants had experienced negative comments from colleagues based on inaccurate and outdated gender stereotypes.
The issues raised by survey participants ranged from colleagues questioning their ability to perform the role to a satisfactory standard because of their gender, to people making assumptions about their sexuality because of the outdated cultural stereotype of the EA/PA role being a female career choice.
At EPAA, we believe a better gender ratio will make for an enriched profession and our mission is simple – we want to inspire boys and men to see the profession as a credible career choice and remove the stereotypes associated with the roles under the administrative umbrella.
Unfortunately, some of these issues appear to be deeply engrained in the business cultures, as one of our survey participants highlighted: “(One) agency refused to meet as I was not ‘a girl’. (For) other roles I have been told they want ‘a pretty face’…”.
For those working in our industry, it is clear that the EA/PA role requires both talent and skill in order to be efficient and successful. Clearly more needs to be done to convey our collective professionalism to both our colleagues and the wider public which is why, as part of our ‘Not just a girl’s job’ campaign, we will seek to decrease the gender split in our industry over time, using a range of awareness raising initiatives in addition to educating the world of work at large on why this is a gender-neutral role.
A number of survey participants supported the idea of raising public awareness of the existence of male PAs and EAs in order to challenge the misguided generalisation that the role is primarily just for women: “Our professional organisations need to address the stereotyping by using more men on their communication messages and promotions. It will also be great if male assistants can have forums that they can use as platforms to discuss their challenges, share best practices and find ways of promoting the profession in their societies.” (Tholo Motaung, EA, Africa)
Despite the fact that outdated gender stereotypes are still an issue in our field, there are signs of positive change within the industry. The survey results supported this, with over 51% of participants stating that they actively chose to work within the administrative profession despite the stereotypes associated with it, and a third of those questioned stating that they have made a long-term career in the industry, having worked within the field for 12 years or more. EPAA intends to boost these numbers further and develop a more balanced gender ratio within our industry.
One survey participant, Shirwyn Weber, an Executive Assistant from Africa, clearly conveyed the attitude that the EPAA are hoping to make commonplace through their ‘Not just a girl’s job’ campaign: ‘If you feel that you want to get into this career as a PA/EA, do it… It is the most challenging and fulfilling position ever. People will stereotype ever (sic) position out there. It’s our time to show that we, as males, can be award-winning, industry leading assistants.’
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