Administrative roles in the United States, regardless of industry, have had a long-standing history as being dominated by women.
Our domination in this field didn’t start because we are master multitaskers or because we were truly valued in the role, no, our domination of the administrative role started with the belief that “women had small, dexterous fingers that could operate a typewriter“ and also the need for someone to get the coffee. True story.
The feminist movement in the early 1970s helped to improve things for women in administrative roles by demanding written job descriptions, overtime compensation, systematic procedures for filing a complaint, and regular salary reviews - things that up until that time were deemed unimportant.
Has much changed since these origins?
In some ways yes, but in many ways no.
Today we still see administrative roles being dominated by women, and even though we have seen strides made in terms of the level of responsibility offered in these roles - we haven’t seen that increase of responsibility matched on the pay scale. And when we take the administrative role out of the corporate sector and place it in the wild, wild, west that is the online business world, things get a little scary. For a role dominated by women, in an arena where there is very little regulation, and pretty much anything goes, women have to constantly protect themselves and their interest to guarantee they don’t get screwed over. This is a fact.
The word “assistant” isn't anchored in respect - let's be honest. It isn’t a title that get’s a lot of love or a title that many aspire to become, so women who hold the title off top have to fight against these barriers.
What makes this role even more nuanced in the online business world is the fact that almost all assistants working with online entrepreneurs are doing so as freelance contractors, but are expected to act as employees without the benefits of an employer/employee relationship.
Virtual assistants are business owners, just like the entrepreneurs they work with and this is how we should be treated. Our time is valuable, our opinions are worthy, and if you are looking to grow your business and have consistency, having a good virtual assistant on your team is an investment that can’t be matched.
But you, the online entrepreneur, must see the value and take full advantage of it because this will never be the responsibility of the virtual assistant you decide to work with. It is important if you think you are ready to work with a virtual assistant, that you come to the table prepared, willing, and able to foster a relationship that will ensure the success of the virtual assistant in working in your business. It is important, if you think you are ready to work with a virtual assistant, that you see it as an opportunity as a collaborative effort, one that will benefit your business and not just as an opportunity to keep someone under your thumb - with that someone, more times than not, being a women.
We have a perfect opportunity to change the game in regards to how we treat those in administrative support roles and honor how impactful the role truly can be for both parties. We all just need to be cognizant of the history and willing to work in ways that are empowering instead of disempowering.
Hey there, I'm Toi!
I write about women + business through an intersectional feminist lens.
When I'm not writing I am mothering, learning, and loving.
If you're interested in buttoning up your business and making more money, I help women-identified humans do that too.