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Mind The Gap

If you type the words ?male receptionist? into Google, the first page of entries is filled with gendered confusion. ?Is being a receptionist a woman?s job?? ?Is it gay for a man to have a receptionist job?? ?Must we interview men for our receptionist job??

Few men choose to work as receptionists or personal assistants, and even fewer decide to pursue careers in these roles, but why is this the case? Unless we are to indulge in junk science theories, it?s safe to state that there are no inherent biological or neurological differences between men and women that make women better suited to clerical or administrative jobs. The difference, therefore, is created by cultural and environmental factors such as?the pay gap, which currently stands at 13.9% for full-time workers, despite great strides being made towards gender equality in the workplace.

One of the causes of this financial inequality is the fact that women are more likely to work in poorly paid and low-skilled positions, with women making up 80% of those working in caring professions and the leisure industry. A receptionist?s post has traditionally been viewed as a low-skilled job, despite the fact that secretarial work is vital to the smooth running of any business. It also often accommodates employees who require part-time work or flexible hours due to domestic or childcare commitments, responsibilities that still fall overwhelmingly to women and contribute to the pay gap. Sexist ideas also continue to exist about female receptionists being ?eye candy? for their male bosses and male colleagues or providing ?something nice to look at? for (assumedly) male clients visiting the company office.

Historically, being a secretary was one of the early careers seen as ?appropriate? for women ? just think of Mad Men! In?2012, the US Census?found that the most common job for American women to hold was secretary, just as it was in 1950. It has become so ingrained in our collective consciousness that the roles of receptionist and PA are ?for women? that it leads to?discriminatory hiring practices?when men apply for these positions. Many businesses don?t want to appear different by hiring men as PAs or receptionists, even if male candidates are highly qualified. The comparative low pay of these roles and perceived lack of opportunities for promotion and advancement is a major factor in putting off male applicants, as is the stigma of doing a ?woman?s job?.

However, some businesses have broken this trend, including Angela Mortimer Plc where receptionist and PA candidates have gone on to become hiring managers with increased salaries. It?s essential that the roles of the receptionist and PA become professionally and financially valued if more men are to be attracted to these positions. Potential candidates need to be able to see opportunities for career progression stemming from PA/receptionist jobs, and pay must be better for people already doing PA and EA work. You get what you spend in the world of business, and to attract high-quality secretarial candidates, companies must be willing to offer them competitive salaries. In a study conducted by Angela Mortimer and Winmark Global, it was found that ?189,000 is the average value added by a PA/EA supporting an average C Suite level executive. Two in three C Suite business leaders and executive assistants believe that the role of an EA is currently under-invested in.

Personal assistants and receptionists are often responsible for holding businesses together, by ensuring that visitors gain an excellent first impression of the company, managing diaries and office relations, keeping their executives organized and on track. They are absolutely indispensable as employees, and must be valued as such.

Outdated ideas about men being less able to fulfill the supportive, anticipatory requirements of being a receptionist or personal assistant must be quashed, as must the idea that attractive women make the best front of house staff. Angela Mortimer currently has a front desk consisting of three men and one woman. By boosting the perception of receptionists and PAs, the gender bias attached to these vital roles can be overcome. Attracting men to these positions will not only enable candidates to fulfill their potential and to avoid discrimination, but it will also move us a step closer to closing the pay gap for women in Britain.

Harriet Williamson