Monday, May 3, 2010

Hypersensitive non-secretary

Nothing gets my goat worse than people assuming that my role at work is that of secretary.

I've been working here for 8 years, not one of which I was a secretary.

What's wrong with being called "secretary"? I'm not sure I can truly sort through the psychology of it all. What I can do is tell you with certainty that I am not a secretary, nor do my duties include typical secretarial duties. Not that there's anything wrong with being a secretary. I personally don't look down on secretaries. I don't think them lesser beings for their job title. So why would it bother me if people assume that's MY job title?

What is my problem? In the 8 years that it's bothered me when people assumed I was a secretary I have never been able to put my finger on it. And I tell myself it doesn't matter, because really it doesn't, but it still bothers me.

So most of the older men around here think that every woman in the department is a secretary, because they are older, and they are used to a workplace that is set up that way. And they are surprised when they find out that I'm not a secretary, and that my responsibilities include more than copying and unjamming the printer (which two things can be mutually exclusive). But their old age causes them to forget these facts so that the next time the subject comes up, they ask me again if I'm a secretary. *Sigh* They'll never learn.

As I mentioned before, one part of the TC got a job equation is that I'm quitting my job. And, as I've mentioned twice already in the previous few paragraphs, I've been working here for 8 years. I'm lacking the fire and vigor and excitement I once had for my job. And I consider that what I do is important and deserves fire and vigor. As a result, I've decided to step down, take a break, and focus on our little family for a while. I'm very VERY excited for this new phase of my life. And I have all sorts of plans of how I will organize my home, my time, and how well fed and dressed TC will be.

Since I'm leaving, my job was opened and resumes were accepted for a few weeks. And people in my department, mostly the older men, have come to ask me things like the following:
"Now the job description says it requires a bachelors degree. Do YOU have a bachelors degree?"
"The job description says that Spanish-speaking ability is required. Do YOU speak Spanish?" (That's where "Spreken ze EspaƱol" was born.)
"The job description says that experience with programming databases is required. Do you know how to program databases?"

*sigh* My sarcastic side wants to reply, "Well I'm certainly not making your coffee every morning, now am I?"

It's the surprise in their voices that really gets to me. And especially the surprise in one man's voice, I shall call him TJ. He came to me to tell me about a fantastic possible replacement for me: A nice little Filipino girl (his tone when referring to her is a subject for another day) that he knows from the bus who would be great in my job. She would be fantastic. But she doesn't have a BA (Do YOU really have a bachelors?), speaks very basic Spanish (So, you speak Spanish?), and doesn't know anything about databases (I didn't know you knew about databases. Wow. Did you study that in college? How did YOU learn?). But she's a sweet girl. Really nice. And she would be great.

*sigh* Another sarcastic comment: "Oh, I'm sorry. 'Nice' isn't one of the job requirements."

Does the fact that the people around me, who do not work directly with me anyway, don't know what I do actually have any bearing on my self-worth, or accomplishments, or anything at all? No. But it still makes my blood boil, just a little bit. (Note that the elevation here makes for a lower boiling point.)

So here I am revealing my inner-bias against being called a secretary, proud and wanting people to know what I do but not so they can ask me to do things for them-jerk. I hope you don't think any less of me.


  1. I loved this post. Truly. I stunk as a church employee, but I hear you entirely. And I know from experience that your job was in no way secretarial. That time I filled in for you while you were on vacay was quite eye opening. You are a superstar! Yay for new life adventures!!!

  2. Nothing is as maddening as being asked if you can make the coffee. Sure I can make you coffe, but since I have no idea how to do it, or what coffee tastes like, I probably shouldn't be your go to for that. And no, I'm not the secretary either. :)
    And I'm so jealous of your new adventure. HOW FUN!!!!

  3. Oh my goodness I wish I had been there in person to have this conversation with you. And to hear the older men make these comments. And to get annoyed about being called a secretary.

    Also, since I know who you are talking about, this made me laugh very hard.

    Another also: So happy that you're going to be on to a new adventure.

    One more also: You are great.

  4. hahaha! I can make the coffee but apparently I can't spell it.

  5. I have this is exact problem...I guess I am a secretary though, but I still hate the word. There is a stigma involved that I just can't stomach. I feel like "Secretary" is demeaning garbage word.

    I'm sorry the old men in the department are so lame. When the department was redoing the area over by me, I was put into an office for a couple weeks and a few of the old men would stop by on daily basis to remind me that I wasn't supposed to me in an office and not to get used to it. Classy....

  6. I completely understand where you're coming from. As an athletic trainer, people always think that I'm a personal trainer. There's actually a huge difference. And, while I don't hate or look down on personal trainers, I didn't go through 6 years of college to do something that doesn't require a college degree.

  7. Oooooohhh, I've not worked there for over two years now, and this STILL makes my blood boil. And TJ is just kind of clueless in so many ways. Were you there for my showdown with Miss JW over this very issue? Or when they tried to give me a nameplate that said "Secretary to BH" on it? It was one thing when we were sitting at desks identical to those of secretaries, but you've been in an office for years now. They really should know better.

    But yeah, I totally agree that the most offensive part is when people are surprised that you have a degree or that you are competent at your job. Just because some women in the department are totally baffled by computers doesn't mean that ALL women are baffled by computers or barely competent for their jobs. I know they meant to be complimentary, but it got to be really annoying when people were surprised that I was a good editor and made their work better. Um, that's what I got hired for. That's what I went to school for. That's why I make more money than your secretary.

    Sorry, you got me started...

  8. It's fun for me to read my own thoughts from some of my own experiences (from days gone by) on your blog. I'm still so excited for you to "work at home". :)

  9. I was glad to hear that all of the Church directors, managers, and supervisors had to attend a 2-hour mandatory harassment/ discrimination training meeting – with the last session of it being today. The lady who conducted the training clarified some important issues of how we work for a corporation and how a lot of the Church ecclesiastical rules don’t apply to Church employees. Turns out males and females CAN travel together on work assignments, and if managers close the door to talk to their male subordinates and not their female subordinates, that is discrimination - and so forth.

    I hope that training meeting opens some eyes and helps change the culture around here – well, here’s to hoping at least.

    Best wishes to you though as you leave the Dept ...and even though I don't really talk to you much, let it be known that I am really going to miss you (and it’s not just because you're such a great secretary). ;-)


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