Still in the Ghetto? Experiences of secretarial work in the 21st century

Catherine Truss*, Kerstin Alfes, Amanda Shantz, Amanda Rosewarne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Secretarial work has been described as one of the most persistently gendered of all occupations. Historically, it has been characterized as a ghetto occupation with three key features: low status and poor pay, narrow and feminized job content and poor promotion prospects. Twenty years ago, when a major study last took place in the UK, it was thought that new office technologies might transform the role, leading to a newly defined occupation equally appealing to both men and women. In this article, we report on the findings of a questionnaire survey involving 1011 secretaries. We found evidence of continuity and change. Secretaries are now better qualified and generally well-paid. A minority is undertaking complex managerial tasks. However, most secretaries continue to perform traditional tasks and career prospects for all remain bleak. We conclude that processes of role gender-typing are deeply entrenched and that secretarial work remains largely a ghetto occupation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-363
Number of pages15
JournalGender, Work and Organization
Issue number4
Early online date13 Feb 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes

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