I’m often asked if the EA role is disappearing from the workforce – will it become extinct?
Labor data and the Wall St. Journal have both reported declines for Executive Assistant jobs as workplace needs change and companies opt to cut costs and use technology to fill the gaps.
Today, on what is now known as Administrative Professionals Day, I want to give you my perspective from where I sit as a recruitment executive in the “People Ops” space. I’ve been in this role for more than 30 years; Administrative Professionals have been celebrated on this day since 1952 when it was part of National Secretaries Week.
The position of Administrative Professional has had more than its fair share of makeovers and reinventions. Whether the title is EA (Executive Assistant), PA (Personal Assistant), or PM (Project Manager) it still exists to offer a career launchpad for college-educated individuals who want to gain access to a specific field and who have a real talent for organizing and multitasking. The position is now far less secretarial and more reliant on technology. Once dubbed the “Office Wife“ to CEOs, high-level EAs are now often titled Chief of Staff and have sophisticated skill sets including multi-languages, technical savvy, and strong writing and communication abilities.
As I’ve listened to HR relay their Talent Requisition and skill needs to me, I’ve witnessed all the changes – the new job descriptions and the expectations from both candidate and manager. The last year living with the pandemic expedited even greater changes impacted largely by digital transformations, remote functionality, and childcare/schooling responsibilities. With global and domestic travel down, managing itineraries is being done by the executives themselves, while skills involving project management, communication, and team collaboration have moved to the EA forefront.
So, though while not disappearing, I will say that traditionally “pink collar” roles are getting a new color. Even more interesting, there is less rigid demand for an EA to be in the office, many spots are now long-term contract assignments as a company’s needs evolve with the return to normalcy. Some have become hybrid work models where an EA is in the office part-time and also works remotely, and of course, there are some businesses that want the EA only in the office supporting anywhere from one manager to a dozen or more.
EA roles have largely been female-dominated and companies who want to main their diversity and inclusion mindsets need to consider how their administrative employees fit into their missions – especially since women have taken a hard hit during Covid – more than 2 million females left the workforce since February 2020; that brings their labor participation rate to levels equal to 1988 according to the National Women’s Law Center. I firmly believe the new EA has true value and is an excellent investment to any business. I encourage companies to rethink their administrative functions to maximize skills, mobility, and the fluidity of the workforce; most importantly, to not allow gender pay gaps to widen as the EA role continues to evolve. If ever there was a time to rethink and reinvent how and what an EA can contribute to a business and the economy in general, this is it! I’ve been seeing some amazing resumes and have been interviewing superior candidate talent (both female and male) – they are more than willing to take on new challenges that require greater intensity and higher skills. The traditional EA supported their Executive’s success – today’s EA supports their own success and that of the organization as a participant, not a spectator.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barbara Cohen Farber is the Executive Director of LLoyd Administrative & HR Talent.
She is a Staffing and Employment Expert with 30+ years of recruitment and search experience placing all levels of Administrative and Human Resources professionals in a wide range of industries across Long Island, Queens and NYC. She handles searches for full time hires and contract engagements.
Connect with her on LinkedIn.