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New Technology and Office Tradition: The Not-So-Changing World of the Secretary MARY C. MURPHREE THE NEW TECHNOLOGY AND THE SECRETARY Electronic word and data processing a multibillion dollar business made possible by the invention and mass production of the m~crochi~is invading the American office. Few work envi- ronments are immune to the temptations of the fast, cheap, and effective automated office equipment now available. Organizations ranging from Fortune 500 corporations, law and accounting firms, public agencies, hospitals, and universities to small businesses and professional partnerships are experimenting with data- and word- processing equipment on a scale scarcely imaginable 10 or even 5 years ago (U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1985~. The emergence of the modern office a century ago, its techno- Togical evolution to mid-century, and even its impact on women's employment have been documented by historians (Baker, 1964; Davies, 1982; Oeirich, 1968; I,ockwood, 1958~. The current phase of technological revolution, particularly its effects on American office workers, calls for further documentation. This paper examines the impact of office technology on the secretarial occupation. It analyzes how the current revolution in 98
MARY C. MURPHREE 99 office organization intersects with changes in secretarial attitudes and demographics and with an office culture traditionally based on gender. It argues that the persistence of patrimonial authority in secretary-boss relations, combined with new staffing ratios (when each secretary is assigned to work for more and more bosses), determine to a far greater extent than technology itselfthe work life of the word-processing secretary. History teaches us that technological change whether in the form of the steam engine, electricity, or the automobile never occurs in a vacuum and that its effects on social organization cannot be understood as random or idiosyncratic events. Nor are its costs and benefits shared equally by all members of society. Rather, much of industrial history depends on the interaction of technology with prevailing social, demographic, and political conditions in a particular era. The introduction of word and data processing into the office of the 1980s, and its impact on the secretary, is no exception. Although there is no one way to define the word "secretary," particularly in this period of transition or "shakeout," ~ use a definition that relates both to the social characteristics of the job (e.g., the authority or superior-subordinate structure) and to the tasks characteristic of the job (e.g., the division of labor). My fo- cus will be entirely on what ~ call the "word-processing secretary." This is a clerical person working on a decentralized m~crocom- puter or terminal who is formally assigned as support staff to one or more principals, with whom she is in daily personal contact and for whom she performs some combination of clerical tasks (e.g., text and data entry, editing, filing, copying, or stenography) and administrative or managerial services (e.g., gatekeeping, co- ordinating, planning, letter drafting). Such a secretary is distinct from a word-processing operator who works at a video display ter- minal (VDT) in a large, centralized facility and who is exclusively charged with word and data production." 7 ~ ~ B~ ~ ~ Currently, there are no data indicating how many word-processing secretaries versus word-processing operators there are in the United States, nor how many workers use particular types of word-processing equipment. Such distinctions should be made in future data-collection efforts. Companies with word-processing centers continue to employ large numbers of secretaries who work in decentralized settings. An increasing number of companies are mooring to decentralize their clerical operations entirely.
100 NEW TECHNOLOGYAND OFFICE TRADITION The secretarial occupation is the largest and most catholic of women's occupations, employing some 4 million women. Secre- taries are widely distributed among industries, professions, and throughout government, in offices of every size, and in towns and metropolitan areas across the United States. Recently, the occupation has experienced tremendous growth, although it has not ridded itself of its traditional sex-stereotyping. Since 1950, secretarial-typ~st employment has more than tripled. The compo- sition of the secretarial labor force has also changed. Since the 1970s, the number of minority women has increased dramatically; between 1970 and 1980 the number of black women secretaries increased 148 percent, while the number of secretaries of Spanish origin increased 131 percent (U.S. Department of Labor, 198 1985~. And, like the female labor force in general, there are more working mothers, more mothers with preschool children, more sin- gle heads of households, and more women who plan to be a part of the paid labor force on a sustained basis. The secretary's relationship to technology, on which this paper focuses, has also changed significantly. The secretary now interacts with sophisticated, computer-based office systems and electronic typewriters as well as with the familiar telephone, copy machine, and dictaphone.2 A wave of publicity heralded the introduction of these gym tems and may have contributed to raping the expectations of many secretaries. Employers, eager to sell their support staffs on the new equipment, have repeated vendor and media clanns and waxed enthusiastic about the benefits that office automation offers 2 Innovations and improvements in office technologies have essentially been incremental since the 1870s (see Strom, this volume). Model after model of typewriters, calculators, dictaphones, telephones, and duplica- tars have been designed with an end to making them more efficient, less costly, and more marketable. For example, the original beeswax and paraffin ~Graphaphone. dictating machine, powered by a sewing machine treadle, was replaced at the turn of the century by a solid wax recording medium with a shaver making it erasable. This in turn was made obsolete by an electronic desk model that appeared in 1936, and that, by World War II, was equipped with a flexible Dictabelt and transistors. Finally, by the 1970s the dictating and transcribing units had been combined into a single small unit; small magnetic cassette tapes were available, and remote Hoff premises telephone transmission was developed. Similarly, improvements in carbon paper streamlined early duplicating tasks alongside mimeograph machines and stencils, which went through dozens of design innovations until the entire duplicating market genre way to the photocopying process.
MARY C. MURPHREE 101 secretaries. Employment agencies and secretarial schools eager to supply their clients with willing and trainable personnel have urged secretaries and prospective secretaries to acquire the new skills quickly so that they too can reap the benefits awaiting them in the electronic office. Many secretaries interpret this enthusiasm and encouragement to mean that all office work has become "high tech and expect that they wiD be given a chance to do challenging work, sharpen their skills, earn better pay, and move up in their organizations. Preliminary evidence indicates, however, that there is a serious disjuncture between what secretaries have been led to expect from the automated office and what many feel they are actually getting. Particularly at risk in this scenario are minority and older women. Understanding the effects of office automation on secretaries is difficult for several reasons. First, it ~ not clear whether sup- ply, declining cost, and marketing of new office technologies are driving the push toward office reorganization or whether factors such as increasing labor costs, a shortage of skilled and willing women clericals, and management fears of clerical unionization are stimulating the demand for office automation (Murphree, 1984b). Second, as pointed out above, the term "secretary" has no gener- aBy accepted meaning, but rather ~ a catch-all word for a person performing a variety of clerical, administrative, and personal tasks (Watstein, 1985~. The term Office, moreover, Is just as ambigu- ous and encompasses myriad shapes and forms. There are large offices and small ones, headquarters and branches, public-sector sites and private-sector sites. An office can also have different occupational or industrial cultures: it can be a profession e] office (e.g., the doctor's office) or a sales office tied to a particular in- dustry (the brokerage office). The Formation process itself can also take a multitude of forms. For example, hardware and soft- ware systems can vary according to how ~multifunctional" they are (i.e., the number of tasks they are capable of performing). Systems can also be more or less interactive. They range from highly integrated, advanced information systems to stand-alone micro and personal computers. They may also vary in the extent to which they are "networked to each other or a larger computer (Spinrad, 1982~. Research also indicates that diffusion of the new technology is occurring at a fast but by no means uniform pace (Kelly Services, 1982~.
102 NE W TECHNOLOG Y AND OFFICE TRADITION Until very recently, most discussions have focused on the general "goodness" or "badness" of word processing (Murphree, 1984a). Vendors and their partisans extolled its promiseto lib- erate secretaries and turn them into high-tech managerswhile critics feared it would reduce secretaries to robots or extensions of machines, if not eliminate them altogether. These simplistic ideas are being discarded as a growing corpus of research on office automation illuminates its complexities. Experts have now begun to distinguish among different kinds of word-processing arrange- ments and stress the differential effects these arrangements have upon clericals (Pomfrett et al., 1984; Feldberg and Glenn, 1983~. At the crudest level a contrast is drawn between word processing that is centralized in pools, on the one hand, and that which is decentralized to satellite stations, on the other (Johnson et al, 1985; lacono and Kling, 1984; Murphree, 1984a; Werneke, 1984; Menzies, 1981~. In the former, an organization's word-processing functions are all located in a single work site or word-processing center. In clecentralized word processing, satellite units are dis- tributed throughout the organization. Inherent in this distinction is a focus on the difference between word-processing "operators," who perform VDT work at the centers under the supervision of a manager, and the word-processing secretaries who concern us here, i.e., secretaries working at satellite VDT terminals in face-to-face relations with principals or bosses to whom they are assigned. Some research examines the sequential phases of the inte- gration process (Giuliano, 1982; Gery, 1982) and the effect of office automation on different occupational groups (Kanter, 1983; Bjorn-Andersen, 1983~. Westin et al. (1985), for example, focus on customer service representatives, data-entry clerks, and clerical- secretarial employees. Bikson and Gutek (1983) analyze the vari- ety of activities and complexities of the tasks performed by dif- ferent white-colIar work groups (including secretaries) who share an information-handling function. Johnson et al. (1985) refine the centralized-decentralized theme by discussing different forms of integration of information processing into organizations and their consequences for organizations. The ergonomic arrangement of different settings has also received attention in the literature. Finally, researchers have attempted to evaluate the success and problems encountered in the use of different staffing arrangements with word-processing equipment (Pomfrett et al., 19843.3 This paper develops a focus omitted by other analysts, namely,
MARY C. MURPHREE 103 the strong gender-based authority relations and patrimonial orga- nization through which word-processing secretaries are linked to their superiors, and by which, traditionally, the nature of their tasks, prestige, wage levels, opportunities for mobility, and, hence, job satisfaction have been determined. 4 The discussion that follows is divided into four sections. Wher- ever possible, the analysis discusses the experience of minority women, who make up a growing proportion of word-processing users, and of older women secretaries, whose work patterns are subject to the greatest disruption. The first section examines the patrimonial form of social organization that has traditionally char- acterized secretarial work. The second section discusses the new breed of secretary produced by a changing labor force supply and by women's changing expectations concerning their rewards and rights on the job. The third section explores how technology affects secretarial expectations and experiences in the new office particu- larly through changes in "staffing ratios" (e.g., private secretaries versus shared secretaries versus team or minipoo} secretaries). The fourth section argues that patrimony not only persists in the new once, but when combined with new staffing ratios also accounts in important ways for the lack of challenge, responsibility, and opportunity to move up in the job that many secretaries are ex- periencing. The section ends with a discussion of other variables such as size of office and organization, resources and wealth of the 3 Pomfrett et al. (1984) offer a useful typology of the possible permuta- tions of principal/secretary social organization, as well as a report on the satisfaction and dissatisfaction of the different groups and individuals. They also identify equality of supervisions as an important variable for operator (read secretarial) satisfaction, especially where pool scenarios are concerned. The study does not deal with gender questions nor with the patrimonial aspects of word-processing secretarial jobs. 4 My analysis draws heavily on case studies and survey data reported by vendors and by researchers in academia, unions, private research-firms, and women's advocate organizations. It also uses interviews and case studies conducted by the author with secretaries in a variety of industries, including law firms, government agencies, universities, and broadcasting. Systematic research, however, on secretarial subtypes (by socioeconomic status, industry, size of firm) does not exist and should become a research priority for policy makers concerned with understanding the changes taking place.
104 NE W TECHNOL O G Y A ND OFFI CE TRA DI TI ON firm, and industry or service in which the firm engages, which may influence changes and rewards in the secretarial occupation. The final section brings together my conclusions. PATRIMONY IN TRADITIONAL SECRETARIAL WORK ~aditionaDy the secretarial role has been understood as a support role with the subordinate performing a variety of admin- istrative, clerical, and personal tasks for a superior. For the last century, women have been secretaries while men have been princi- pals. The classic description of this role was provided by Rosabeth M. Kiter (1977) in her pioneering work, Men and Women of the Corporation. Focusing on the secretarial role in the structure of a large organization called INDISCO, Kanter analyzed the pat- rimonia] nature of the role relationship between secretaries and their principab. Using Weber's definition of patrimony as a guide, and the "Iord-vamal" mode} as metaphor, she identified three am pects of the traditional boss-secretary relationship: (1) principled arbitrariness (secretaries have no job description but rather are subject to the arbitrary power of a boss who, within limits of fair practice set by Principled or tradition, can make whatever job request of a secretary he chooses); (2) fealty (an emphasis on loyalty and The personal in boss-secretary relations, such that symbolic, emotional, and nonutilitarian rewards become substi- tutes for economic ones); (3) status contingency (the fact that secretaries derive their status from the rank and power of their bosses). Each impacts in varying degrees on secretarial tasks and on the secretary's access to better pay and mobility. TRADITIONAL SECRETARIAL TASKS Secretarial tasks are generally defined by a principal or boss who has a great deal of latitude and personal authority In de- termining what a secretary does. Typically, a secretary and boss carve out a personal set of procedures and understandings con- cerning what tasks the secretary will perform. The organization provides only the merest skeleton for the structure of the secre- tary's job. One boss may delegate challenging and creative work to a secretary. His successor may delegate nothing. The secretary's work is also characterized by a constant flow of orders with no routinized schedule. Typically she must respond "to momentary
MARY C. MURPHREE 105 demands and immediate requests generated on the spot" (Kanter, 1977:79~. Traditionally the secretary acts as a kind of "office wife," performing an array of personal and socioemotional services for her boss. These may include listening to his troubles, performing office housekeeping duties, running personal errands outside the office, or even granting sexual favors (Kanter, 1977:79~813. The secretary must also act as a buffer between the boss and the outside world. This includes acting as a Gatekeeper (screen- ing calb and visitors), as well as assisting the boss In presenting a certain front to the organization or world. As ~ wrote about legal secretaries in my 1977 case study (Murphree 1984a: 1423: Essentially skilled ageneralists,n legal secretaries have tradi- tionally performed a multitude of both simple clerical and house keeping functions and complex administrative and lawyering tasks. Beyond taking shorthand and transcribing items for her boss's sig- nature and beyond acting as his gatekeeper . . . legal secretaries typically might type corporate minutes, draft standard wills or petitions following boiler-plate forms, or check legal citations and references for her attorney. She might also monitor the court cal- endar or docket, handle the firm's bills and charges, and work with an outside accountant on firm taxes. All this has been in addition to filing, ordering supplies, handling the mail, typing endless copy from draft, collating multiple final copies, and, of course, making coffee.... In keeping with the office-wife role expected of her, the Wall Street legal secretary further has traditionally performed certain supportive and nurturant tasks as well. Covering for an attorney's mistakes, lying about his whereabouts when it is helpful, listening supportively (and in confidence) to his career or family problems, . . . are all important tasks associated with her sex-stereotyped role as handmaiden and confidante. REWARDS AND CAREER MOBILITY Secretaries in jobs defined by patrunonial relations are subject to a special set of standards and; rewards that, unlike most other occupations in the office, is highly particularmtic. By and large secretaries are rewarded for loyalty and devotion to their bosses. In the INDISCO study, for example, Kanter found that secretarial ratings were determined by two main traits or attitudes. One was initiative and enthusiasm, and the other was the secretary's ability to "anticipate and take care of personal needs." They were not necessarily rated for professional skills. Even when the company attempted to standardize the evaluation process, managers often
106 NEW TECHNOLOGYAND OFFICE TRADITION rated secretaries in terms of the quality of their relationships rather than in terms of skills that benefit the organization generally (Kanter, 1977~. A number of recent studies have begun to analyze the skilled but often "invisible" labor that secretaries perform. Too often these skills go unrecognized and undercompensated. Secretaries, for example, perform many highly skilled tasks that require expert social and cognitive judgments and use sophisticated mediating and negotiating techniques that involve great diplomacy (Mur- phree, 1984; Suchman and Wynn, 1984~. As "gatekeepers" they must know when to disturb their managers for telephone calls as well as how to put off the unwanted call diplomatically. In addition to knowing who's who in the manager's world, they must know how to read urgency in the tones of their bosses and their bosses' superiors; how to follow complicated and often poorly explained instructions; and how to negotiate and shepherd projects through the various departments and support services of the organization. These skills, according to Machung (1983), while handsomely re- warded at the executive or managerial level, are undervalued when performed by women labeled as secretaries. This perception of inequity is increasingly a source of grievance to secretaries. The Consensus Statement of Professional Secre- taries International (a nonunion organization) insists that "discre- tionary judgment, not clerical skills, is the key component of the secretary's productivity." Further it maintains that "tAipprecia- tion does not replace compensation. This message is similar to that of "Raises Not Roses promulgated by District 9 to 5 of the Service Employees International Union. Secretaries are paid less and have less control and less in- dependent recognition than they might have otherwise. Instead they receive such nonutilitarian rewards as praise, appreciation, prestige, love, or flattery. Symbolic rewards are also frequent substitutes for promotion. Typically women in secretarial jobs derive their formal rank and pay from the formal rank of their bosses rather than from the skills they utilize or the tasks they perform. A common career path for a secretary traditionally has been to begin as a pool secretary, advance to working for a lower-level manager or divisional officer, and end up as a secretary to a vice president or a president (Kanter, 1977~.
MARY C. MURPHREE 107 In my study of legal secretaries ~ found two main types of career mobility: vertical and horizontal. Vertical mobility was most commonly achieved by the spool to partner" route. It also meant moving from the typing pool to working for any attorney, or moving from a junior law partner to a stop partner," or from an associate to a partner. Sometimes it involved moving from a pair of attorneys to a single attorney. Secretaries sometunes moved horizontally within an organization as well. At law Firm X, where ~ conducted a case study, this simply meant the secretary changed to an attorney with the same rank as her present boss. For exa~nple, through the office grapevine a secretary might learn of a good position opening in the office of an attorney with a reputation for being particularly nice and request permission from the personnel department to transfer laterally to that attorney. Partners' secretaries, however, were usually not permitted to move laterally. Any move they made had to be to a higher-level attorney or out of the firm altogether. Only rarely, however, did any legal secretary move to another service department of the firm, i.e., to the paralegal department, to proofreading, or to the library. Whatever industry or profession they are tied to, secretaries have generally not moved with any ease into managerial and pro- fessional jobs. Moreover, the ladders that do exist are exceedingly short and confining. Research indicates that moving up typically means an easier work load but not necessarily a more challenging one. In many instances the sharpest work, with the most demands and greatest variety of technical requirements, is performed at the lowest secretarial level (Kanter, 1977~. Secretaries at the upper levels of INDISCO, for example, had more responsibility in the sense that they took on a few administrative duties (and often their mistakes had greater consequences), but they did not neces- sarily have the heaviest work loads. This was also true at Firm X, where legal secretaries to junior partners or senior associates had less status and pay but heavier work loads than senior partners' secretaries. Their attorneys not the senior partners- typically generated the most paperwork In the firm (Murphree, 1981~.
108 NEW TECHNOLOGYAND OFFICE TRADITION CHANGES IN THE SUPPLY OF WOMEN TO SECRETARIAL JOBS: RISING EXPECTATIONS AND DECLINING SATISFACTION For many years women secretaries have shaped their expec- tations to the patrimonial structure surrounding them. In recent years, however, the workplace expectations of more and more women have soared, creating a striking dissonance between expec- tations and actual experience- a dissonance exacerbated by new office technology. In the late 1970s, Daniel Yankelovich (1979) focused atten- tion on the growing "psychology of entitlements" characterizing American workers, female as well as male. Workers increasingly demand rights and rewards at work that they did not consider due them in the past. Women, while generally satisfied with less than men (Gutek and Bikson, 1985), are nonetheless an important part of this movement. According to Rosabeth Kanter, since the 1960s women in the nonprofessional rank and file have lobbied with a new legitimacy for an extension of their basic civil rights into the workplace and have demanded equity, discretion, and greater employee control (Kanter, 1977~.5 Many are questioning their subordinate place in organizational hierarchies as nurturant "office wives, servants, and sex objects. At the same time they are seeking recognition for their Invisible labor" and their role as important players on the office team. Accompanying this drive for entitlements has been an observ- able decline in the overall satisfaction of working women, especially secretaries. As early as 1977 women were reporting a gap between what they expected from their jobs and what they felt they were getting. The Quality of Employment Survey, for example, re- ported a decline of some 25 points In the mean job satisfaction 5 There is a wide range as to what different workers mean by their Frights. At the most radical level, the rights issue focuses on access to real power for subordinates, namely, access to the resources of the organization, or what a union organizer in Terkel's American Drcanw: Lost and Found (1981) called Profits and say-so. Worker rights may also involve "freedom from hierarchy" (Blauner, 1966; Presthus, 1978) and the opening up of an organization's opportunity system to any qualified workers (Kanter, 1977~. In most instances, however, the rights discussed involve such specifics as the right to pay equity or privacy, the right to participate in decisions involving departmental production, or the right to more control by the worker over his or her immediate work tasks and environment.
MARY C. MURPHREE 109 score of secretaries between 1969 and 1977 (Quinn and Staines, 1979; Staines, 1979~. A 1975 study by the U.S. Department of State examined the morale of its secretaries at home and abroad. It found over half of the 845 respondents to be dissatisfied with their careers. The most frequent criticisms concerned a lack of status and recognition, as well as a lack of responsible and interesting work (i.e., respondents were assigned work that made too few demands on their skills, felt overqualified for their present assignments, and thought them- seIves able to do the work of their superiors) (U.S. Department of State, 1975:iii-v). A later study by the National Commission on Working Women (1979) surveyed the perceptions, problems, and prospects at work of some 20,399 secretaries and typists- self-selected as respondents from the readership of a variety of national women's magazines. It too found widespread perception of underutilization, limited advancement opportunities, and low pay. Grandjean and Taylor (1980) examined sources of job satis- faction of 231 secretaries, stenographers, and typists in a federal agency. The items rated most important to secretarial job sat- isfaction were the opportunity to advance, do quality work, and have responsibility. The importance placed on advancement and responsibility, however, contrasts markedly with the actual satis- faction secretaries expressed regarding the opportunity to achieve them. Over the last few years, the combination of increasing expec- tations and declining satisfaction has increased political activism among many women clericals. Organizations of secretaries, in- cluding Working Women, 9 to 5, and Professional Secretaries In- ternational, all provide secretaries with an institutional base from which to advocate better pay, greater respect on and off the job, more opportunity to perform interesting and challenging work, and an opportunity to advance in their careers. In addition, these associations seek to repudiate the stigma that became attached to the occupation in the 1970s when being Just a secretary" was often seen as an inferior occupation compared to the many nontra- ditional occupations some women began to enter. Organizations such as the Women's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor, The Business and Professional Women's Foundation, the commissions on the Status of Women, the Displaced Homemaker's Network, the National Commission on Working Women, and many women's
110 NEW TECHNOLOGYAND OFFICE TRADITION centers in educational institutions and community-based organi- zations throughout the country have also taken up the secretary's cause. Unions have been active as well. The Coalition of Labor Union Women serves as the research hub for national unions inter- ested in organizing secretaries. In 1980 the National Association of Office Workers joined with the Service and Industrial Employees Union to form District 9 to 5. The media's changing attitude toward working women In gen- eral supplements institutional support for secretaries. Television, newspapers, magazines, and movies sensitive to their buying power publicize the needs and wants of working women, including secre- taries. Television serials, movies, and documentaries have taken up such issues as sexual harassment, day care, pension and pay problems, and health and safety rights. Contemporary studies as ~ will show in the balance of the papercontinue to show disparities between secretarial expecta- tions and experiences, especially as they pertain to specific factors. Moreover, the new breed of secretary does not encounter a static workplaces Her expectations are soaring at the same historical moment that offices are being transformed by automation. THE NEW OFFICE ENVIRONMENT WORD PROCESSING: THE CORE TECHNOLOGY From the perspective of most secretaries, word processing is a handy technology and a welcome too} for getting the job done. Secretaries generally report that they like the new automated equipment and they are optimistic about what it can do for them (Westin et al., 1985; Johnson et al., 1985; ProfessionalSecretaries International and the Minolta Corp., 1984; 9 to 5, National AL sociation of Working Women, 1984; Honeywell Tnc., 1983; Bikson and Gutek, 1983~. In a national survey conducted by a major vendor, 86 percent of the secretaries reported being satisfied to very satisfied with their automated equipment (Honeywell Inc., 1983~. About 9 out of 10 secretaries agreed that this equipment speeded up their routine chores, made their job easier, and im- proved the flow of work through the office. At least three-quarters agreed that the equipment allowed secretaries to get more done each day, improved the quality of their work, and freed their time for mo~-interesting and challenging tasks "Honeywell Inc., 1983~. /
MARY C. MURPHREE 111 Two other vendor-sponsored surveys (Westin et al., 1985; Pros Sessional Secretaries International and the Minolta Corp., 1984), as weD as a large union-sponsored survey (9 to 5, National Am sociation of Working Women, 1984), also found that favorable attitudes were widespread. Sixty-eight percent of the respondents of the 9 to 5 Working Women Education Stress Survey reported that using VDTs made their jobs more interesting and enjoyable, and 88 percent of the members of Professional Secretaries Inter- national said they liked using automated equipment. (See also Bikson and Gutek, 1983~. More important, none reportedly are eager to return to the typewriter (Pomfrett et al., 1984~. The problems associated with the quality of secretarial em- ployment in automated offices have much more to do with orga- nizational factors, including the design of new jobs, the way in which word processing Is introduced, and general working con- ditions, than with the equipment itself. lacono and Kling (1984) recently pointed out that, while most workers accept innovation as normal and are highly pleased with new technologies, they are also very frustrated with the conditions under which they use them: Women, who are most adversely affected by technological change, are rarely dissatisfied or hostile toward their machine. However, clerical workers are much more frequently dissatisfied with the working conditions that accompany new technologies. The objectionable conditions most commonly reported by sec- retaries involve a multitude of practical factors: lack of privacy, storage, and desk top space; noise; poor equipment maintenance; inadequate access to software consultants (Johnson et al., 1985~; poorly written manuals; and low functionality of systems (John- son, 1984; Bikson and Gutek, 19833. Secretaries also object to being excluded from the process of deciding how to automate the office; they resent not being consulted about what kinds of equips ment to buy for their offices or about whether and how their jobs should be redesigned. They also want to take part in evaluating how- well an office system works. For example, secretaries resent having to master a particular system thrust on them, only to have that system replaced with an entirely different one all without input or evaluation from themselves, the primary users. While deeply aggravating, these are short-term problems that in theory could be solved. A more difficult problem lies in the area of secretaries' long- term expectations. The introduction of word processing has raised
112 NEW TECHNOLOGY AND OFFICE TRADITION these expectations: secretaries anticipate that the new systems and associated skills will give them access to more challenging work, create opportunities for advancement in their organizations, and lead to more money and higher status. Sharing in these ex- pectations are large numbers of minority women, especially blacks and Hispanics. In the 1970s women benefited from new opportuni- ties, many of them made possible by equal opportunity legislation and affirmative action regulations in the 1960s. Different groups of women, however, benefited in different ways. In the last decade, for example, large numbers of white, educated women who for- merly looked to secretarial work as an appropriate career have moved into professional and managerial positions. Their exodus, together with a staggering increase in secretarial jobs, opened up many clerical positions to minority women, who had tradi- tionally been forced by discrimination to work at lower-paying, lower-status factory and domestic jobs. In 1970 there were ap- proximately 155,000 black and Hispanic secretaries; by 1980 that number had more than doubled to 374,000. Secretarial and cler- ical positions have also become available to less-educated white women whose level of schooling would previously have disqualified them (Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, 1985~. These new groups, however, bring to their work a set of rising expec- tations characteristic of American working women generally, and, moreover, they are looking to the new technology to provide them with even greater opportunities. Commentators, including employers and policy makers, have made much of the claim that secret Trial work Is a step up for many women in that it offers them better wages, a cleaner work environment, greater status outside the workplace, and a chance to get dressed up and mix with white-colIar professionals (Mur- phree, 1981; Crazier, 1964; Mills, 1956~. Implicit in this analysis, however, is the assumption that expectations are static e.g., that minority women, by virtue of the relative improvement in their status and wages that secretarial jobs bring compared with most service and domestic work, will remain forever grateful and content in these jobs. More recent research suggests that these clericals respond to new incentives and seek to grow in their jobs just as other employees do. My own field studies and much anecdotal ma- terial suggests that once a certain "mastery of word processing is attained, most word-processing secretaries whatever their race or ethnic grouptend to seek greater compensation for new skills acquired, the opportunity to improve those skills even more, and a chance to advance in their organizations.
MARY C. MURPNREE 113 In theory, new information-processing technology affords sec- retaries opportunities to perform a wide variety of interesting tasks ranging from high-level information-processing functions (e.g., nu- meric data manipulation, including spreadsheets and financial analysis; planning and project management; and programming and form development) (Goldfield et al., 1985; Hirschhorn, 1984) to a multitude of lower-level tasks such as filling in forms or keying in text and data supplied by someone else (Bikson and Gutek, 1983; Schrage, 1984~. The list below enumerates the range of tasks. Recent research, however, indicates that secretaries while using more skills than ever beforeare nonetheless performing few of the higher-level, autonomous information-processing tasks sophisticated computer systems make available to them (Bikson and Gutek, 1983; Gutek and Bikson, 1985~. This, as the following sections show, occurs because of the dominance of new staffing ratios in offices where private secretaries are shared among princi- pals or are obliged to work as specialists in minipools and because of the persistence of patrimony in secretarial work, in particular the still-operative stereotypes of the appropriate division of labor between principals and secretaries. SECRETARIAL SHARING AND MINIPOOLS: NEW STAFFING RATIOS IN THE AUTOMATED OFFICE Office economics, in particular the costs generated by invest- ment in computers and concerns about labor overhead, are pushing many managers in a trend predicted by Mills (1956) and Braver- man (1974) to continue their efforts to reduce the number of private secretaries in their organizations by decoupling secretaries and executives. Two observations, in fact, about word-processing secretaries stand out in office after office today. First, while some word-processing secretaries are assigned to work for one person, far more work for two, three, or more principals in varying degrees of intimacy.6 Second, authority over the secretary is increasingly "shared between a number of different bosses, be they several 6 Mills (1956) referred to the pool concept in White Collar. Until recently, systematic data on secretarial job design in decentralized groups has been unavailable. However, a new study by Pullman and Szymanski (1986) for The Private Industry Council of New York City presents a useful cross-sectional analysis of clerical workers in the banking, insurance, and legal industries and the increased staffing ratios found there.
114 NEW TECHNOLOGYAND OFFICE TRADITION Tasks of the Word-Processing Secretary Administrative and pare-professional tasks _ . . Answer letters and inquiries (including electronic mail) Drafting letters and documents for boss's signature Electronic calendaring and time management Arranging conferences and meetings, including teleconferencing Planning and project management Project follow-through and cleanup Spreadsheets and financial management Research Inventory control Personnel records (time and attendance logs) Diplomatic and social tasks Gatekeeping and buffering Receiving visitors or incoming calls Scheduling appointments for boss Gathering information and gossip about organization Shepherding projects through bureaucracy Acting as soundings board for boss Advising boss Clerical tasks Placing telephone calls Making restaurant reservations Making travel arrangements Photocopying Stenography Taking minutes or notes at meetings Proofreading Maintaining files of paper copies Distributing~sending out mail Clerical tasks--computer-based Text and data inputting Own (drafting) Others (copying; transcribing from dictaphone) Formatting and graphics Using judgment Only as instructed Text and data-editing Own (editing and correcting) Others (making editorial changes and corrections as instructed) File management Develop own system using judgment Use predesigned system with preassigned and standardized file name Proofreading, using spelling and grammar programs Budgeting space on disks Maintenance and housekeeping tasks--comouter-based Changing ribbons Changing print wheels Hand-feeding printer with paper or otherwise controlling paper input Gathering printed output Stocking and fitting computer supplies Fetching or ordering supplies
MARY C. MURPHREE Maintenance and housekeeping tasks--non-computer-based Getting coffee, ordering food Cleaning, straightening, and dusting Setting up conference rooms Personal and quasi-personal tasks Financial management (e.g., preparing tax material, paying bills for boss, keeping securities or insurance records for boss) Carrying out club and social organization commitments of a clerical nature for boss (e.g., alumni mailing) Gift buying/private errands 115 executives or an executive and the organization's personnel de- partment. Essentially the job of every word-processing secretary can be analyzed in terms of the number and configuration of principals assigned to that secretary, i.e., the staffing ratio. In some Wall Street law firms and many other large organizations, two different secretary-t~boss configurations are predominant: shared word- processing arrangements and minipoo] or team arrangements. The Shared Secretary A common arrangement now found in many offices is the shared word-processing secretary. A secretary is assigned to work on a daily basis for two or more principals. This arrangement bears such names as the "two on one" or "three on one" plank In the Honeywell Inc. (1983) study, for example, 36 percent of all the secretaries interviewed worked for two or three managers, while nearly 20 percent worked for four or more managers. Ratios can range from 2 principals per secretary, such as found in a small architectural firm or doctor's office, to 20 or 30 principals per secretary, such as found in many high-tech engineering firms (Honeywell Inc., 1983~. Knowing how many bosses the ~uord-processing secretary has can provide important clues to understanding the scope and qual- ity of the secretary's job. Exploratory research suggests that word- processing secretaries who are shared perform a more restricted 7 This is not to say that the private secretary has disappeared,, in the automated office. In almost every office, one can find examples of the private word-processing secretary working for a single executive or manager. In personnel parlance this is known as the "one-on-one plan.
116 NEW TECHNOLOGYAND OFFICE TRADITION set of tasks than secretaries who work for only one boss, regardless of how sophisticated their particular word-processing system may be. In large part this is due to the demands made on the secretary's time by a stable of bosses for routine typing, data-entry, and editing chores. The bulk of the shared word-processing secretary's work is often made up of text inputting and routine editing. She must also perform the many traditional gatekeeping and "office wife" functions. As a result there is little time, with even the most sophisticated system, for her to undertake high-level tasks such as project management, accounting, electronic calendaring, or developing a data base or file management system. Unrealistic expectations about the capabilities of new equip- ment further limit the shared secretary's work. Most people asso- ciate "high-demand, low-controT jobs" with centralized data- and word-processing work (Karasek, 1979; 9 to 5, 1984~. But these problems can be found just as readily in decentralized scenarios. Dazzled by the speed and multiple text-editing features of word processing, many bosses in decentralized settings see the machine, rather than the secretary, as the production unit (U.S. Department of Labor, 1984-1985~. They give their secretaries sIoppier-than-usual first drafts, many more revisions to make, and less time in which to correct the material (Zimmerman, 19833. For shared secretaries the need to speed up tends to be worse the larger the number of principals they serve. Challenge in these jobs, therefore, comes not from the intrinsic complexities of the tasks, but rather from one's ability to keep up with a demanding work load generated by many bosses. Pomfrett et al. (1984), for example, describe a work situa- t~on where only two secretaries now perform all the office's word- processing work. They report that the two secretaries felt they were spending more time doing word processing and associated tasks than they had previously spent at typing in the precomputer office, with a reduction in task variety and hence work satisfaction. In addition, managers continue to vie with one another for a secretary's timejust as they did in the precomputer office, and pull rank and status with her to get their work done first and fastest. The secretary frequently gets caught in the middle between two principals, and must stop working on one job to accommodate the higher-ranking principal.
MARY C. MURPHREE 117 The Minipoo! Secretary Many companies are using new office technologies as a vehicle to reorganize their secretaries into small decentralized pools. Al- though such pools existed in the precomputer office for years, they are considered by some management consultants today to be the latest trend in reorganizing office work. These small work groups bear names such as teams, clusters, or minipools. Their attraction to managers is that they maximize the use of every secretary's time and eliminate some of the "costs, inefficiencies, and inequities of the social office" that Mills (1956) and Kanter (1977) described. For example, the private and shared systems limit, to an extent, whom a secretary must take work from and cast a patrimonial glow around boss-secretary relations. In contrast, the team or m~nipooT secretaryat least in principle is available to work for any principal. (Some of the greatest uproars in the traditional office have involved an executive asking someone else's secretary to do work for him.) From the perspective of the secretary seeking challenge, vari- ety, and control over her work, minipools can be a boon insofar as they cut down on the favoritism or prima donna syndrome. They also create a setting for secretaries to work out a division of labor among themselves, such as who will specialize in what tasks (e.g., text editing, gatekeeping, maintenance) and how jobs will be rotated among different staff members. They allow for group support in learning new software techniques and, for secretaries attached to highly specialized teams, an opportunity to hone their skills (e.g., gain proficiency at creating glossaries and "plombing" a software program or a system in great depth). Decentralized pools, however, can create some very real prob- lems for those secretaries who find their new jobs enlarged but not enriched. Too often they are very high stress, heavy work load environments. More important, however, they are frequently coor- dinated by a senior secretary or supervisor who is answerable to a distant personnel department. While such a person can benefit the work group by running interference between the secretaries and the managers, she often becomes a co-supervisor alongside the set of executives the pool serves. This arrangement frequently results in the secretaries not being sure who is boss, who to please most, or whose evaluation counts most. Many end up trying to please both the coordinator and the more powerful managers attached
118 NEW TECHNOLOG Y AND OFFICE TRADITION to their pool. Such supervisory ambiguity is characteristic of pool work of any kind in that it mixes a kind of bureaucratic authority with old-fashioned patrimonial authority (Murphree, 1981~. Like so much else that characterizes today's office, it is independent of any technology and can be found in both high-tech and low-tech offices. The trend toward minipools and secretarial sharing is likely to affect different groups of women in different ways. Whitej middle- cIass women are likely to move into the private secretarial jobs or be promoted to the team supervisor jobs. Minority women are likely to move into lower-level shared or pool jobs. THE PERSISTENCE OF PATRIMONY IN THE NEW OFFICE THE NEW TASKS Many patrimonial aspects of the traditional once persist in the newly automated one. Kanter (1977) points out that high- challenge jobs in secretarial work have generally resulted from a manager's largess OF the secretary's ability to persuade him to assign her such jobs. In automated offices dominated by a patrimm Dial ethos, in which secretarial work is decentralized, the division of labor between secretary and boss continues to be negotiated in · ·' a similar way. Just as in the precomputer office, many secretaries working in automated offices are kept busy accomplishing a host of lower-level clerical and administrative tasks. For example, in the traditional office the secretary did all the typing; in the automated office she continues to do most of it depending upon how resistant her boss is to keyboards. (Indeed, managers' resistance to word and data processing has been blamed on their disdain for typing, hence the euphemism, "keyboarding.") As one analyst put it, women type, men keyboard.8 Secretaries, particularly private or executive secretaries who have a professional orientation to their work, continue to fee} 8 Bikson and Gutek (1983) found a high keyboarding rate for the man- agers, administrators, and text- and data-oriented professionals in their study. They caution, however, that the organizations they studied were early adopters of new technology and hence not necessarily representative of office work groups generally.
MARY C. MURPHREE 119 capable of performing far more demanding and responsible tasks in the new office than their male managers are willing to give them. Half of the managers in the Honeywell study reported wasting more than 10 percent of their time on activities such as supervision of minor tasks and composing routine correspondence, memos, or reports. These same managers, however, say they do not delegate these "time-wasting tasks to their secretaries either because the nature of the task makes it impossible or because their secretaries are too busy. The secretaries disagree. Only one in four secretaries say they are too busy to take on extra duties. furthermore, 4 in 10 report that their managers see no need to delegate work to them. The study also points out the divergent viewpoints held by secretaries and managers as to what makes an office more productive. Secretaries were twice as likely as their managers to say that more of a team relationship between managers and their secretaries would improve office productivity, with managers twice as likely as their secretaries to fee] that "more automated equipment" was the answer (Honeywell Inc., 1983~. Even in organizations where word processing is highly inte- grated and executives work "on liner a great deal, secretaries and principals do quite different tasks (Johnson, 1984~. And, just as in the traditional office, it is the principals who perform most of the creative and rewarding tasks, namely, those demanding high levels of verbal skill, discretion, responsibility, and decision making, such as writing original material, manipulating financial programs, or creating project management systems (Bikson and Gutek, 1983~. In many instances, for example, ~ witnessed executives passing documents that had been generated on a home computer to their secretary for entry and text editing on the office system. An Omni group study suggests that executives are delegating these tasks to their secretaries out of boredom. According to the director of the study, Tech Wends '85: Inside the American Office, "personal computing tends to glamorize clerical work, and managers have begun to realize that. Many systems, for example, are designed ~ such a way that there is little or no room for secretarial input. Computerized file management programs, for example, allow users to create, access, and store data in computers tasks that can involve varying de- grees of computer expertise and cognitive skill. In "high-challenge" situations, secretaries are given a great deal of discretion in file management. They can create their own file management program
120 NEW TECHNOLOGY AND OFFICE TRADITION or customize an off-the-shelf program to fit their particular needs. Frequently, however, the word-processing secretary is required to mark up files or retrieve them using schemes predetermined and programmed by others. Similarly, text editing can vary in the amount of discretion and creativity allowed the secretary. Few secretaries are allowed to function as true editors, using their conceptual and verbal skills to rework the writing of a principal. The word-processing secretary Is inheriting a good deal of the new hardware maintenance tasks as well, in particular, supervising the printer. Keeping it supplied with paper, changing ribbons, and tearing off output are all tasks falling in the secretary's domain. Inadequate training and time to experiment with new func- tions present other stumbling blocks to secretaries seeking chal- lenging work in the automated office. Too frequently, secretaries receive little or no training In system functions (U.S. Department of I,abor, 1986) and thus lack the background to experiment with new programs such as project planning or spreadsheet software. Career Opportunities Women secretaries have long expressed a desire for greater career mobility and opportunity to advance in their organizations (Grandjean and Taylor, 1980; National Commassion on Working Women, 1979; Schrank and Riley, 1976; U.S. Department of State, 1975~. The sweeping changes in office organization that often accompany automation offer employers an opportunity to improve women's access to higher-level professional and managerial jobs. An important attraction for secretaries of acquiring and honing computer skills has been the belief that such skills would facilitate their entry into higher-level occupations. (Honeywell Inc., 1983; Kelly Services, 1982; Verbatim Corp., 1982~. Contrary to the promise of many vendors and schools oh fering word-processing instruction, however, preliminary research indicates that clerical women are increasingly frustrated with the opportunity for advancement offered them in the "office of the future." Many are reporting uncertainty as to whether word pro- cessing per se should be viewed as a clerical, a technical, or a professional occupation (Verbatim Corp., 1982~. In its survey of some 900 women working in VDT occupations, the Educational Fund for Individual Rights found that nearly a third of the female clericals felt discriminated against in terms of the promotional
MARY C. MURPHREE 121 and career path opportunities they received compared to men in their organization. In an employer survey of a large, highly au- tomated customer-service organization reported on by the same researchers, t~vo-thirds of the women clericals said they were not satisfied vnth their chances for advancement (Weston et al., 1985~. Similar numbers were obtained In a 1983 study of professional secretaries (Professional Secretaries International and the Minolta Corp., 19843: 49 percent of the secretaries said they were dissat- isfied with the opportunity for advancement offered by their jobs, with 22 percent being every dissatisfied. In the same survey ap- prox~mately t~vo-thirds of the secretaries felt there were limitations to advancement for secretaries in their company. A review of study research conducted for the National Acade- my of Sciences (Werneke, 1984) focuses specifically on the nexus between technology and women's occupational mobility and links women's blocked mobility and their low pay to occupational seg- regation and the fact that women are locking into lower-level computer jobs. A concern of many researchers, in fact, is the eventual elimi- nation of many of the professional and managerial jobs into which women have moved over the last decade as a result of affirmative action efforts. New data indicate a trend toward employers using attrition and retrenchment to reduce the number of recently cre- ated lower-level management positions through a last in, first out policy (Applebaum, 1984, Kraft, 1985~. The social reorganiza- tion and new staffing ratios being adopted by many offices when automating may, however, not only cut women off from upper- leve} jobs but reduce their access to secretarial jobs by eliminating many typists end clerk positions. These abridge positions" tradi- tionally have offered women most recently, minority women an important entree into higher-paid secretarial work (Noyelle, this volume). For years, entry-level typists have aspired to move up into private secretarial or, more recently, administrative assistant jobs (Watstein, 1985~. from there, as Kanter (1977) points out, mobility has traditionally been contingent on either the upward mobility of the boss or on a kind of horizontal mobility, with the secretary moving from firm to firm in search of a higher-paying job in a more prestigious firm or industry. To the extent that more and more private secretarial slots are phased out and secretaries are shared or pooled, organiza- tional career ladders will become even shorter. This could be a
122 NEW TECHNOLOGYAND OFFICE TRADITION particular problem for minority women. In one Wall Street law firm, the private secretaries' slots are being eliminated through attrition. Secretaries who leave or retire are not replaced. All new secretarial recruits- a large percentage of whom are minority women from a local community collegeare hired with the clear understanding that as long as they are with the firm they will be "team secretaries" and should not expect to be promoted to "private secretary." As such they will work in a pool with three other secretaries for nine attorneys. At a salary of $400 per week these terms are easy for the new young recruits to accept. Ac- cording to the firm's director of personnel, however, problems do eventually arise. Typically these team secretaries, after a couple of years on the job, will come to her seeking raises because they are not permitted to move up to work for partners and their skills on the office's very advanced word-processing system have greatly increasecI.9 Hirschhorn, however, in a concept paper, suggests that a did ferent scenario is occurring in the automated office. He posits that because a shift is taking place whereby office workers do more "negotiating on their jobs than "taking orders," three "para- professions" may emerge from "the increasingly obsolete secretar- ial role." These are the pare-publisher, the pare-librarian, and the pare-manager. The first supervises the document production process; the second supervises file and index management, with particular emphasis on cross-referencing; and the third prepares budgets, monitors master-calendar preparations, and maintains "control system ciata bases, such as productivity and time records (Hirschhorn, 1984:~. In Hirschhorn's view this development is likely to move sec- retaries into the professional and managerial ranks. In his words: "The par~publisher, once a secretary, can become a manager of an in-house publishing unit. The technology capitalizes his or her innate skills. He also points out, however, that "the person who cannot achieve pare-professional status cannot hope to rise from filing clerk to receptionist to secretary and cites the dangers this poses for "poor, uneducated or miseducated people, which could 9 Some law firms and academic departments are experimenting with building career mobility into their teams by creating supervisory slots for "captains" or coordinators. The number of these slots, however, is very limited and is not likely to compensate for the old career route of spool to partneP or typist to departmental secretary.
MARY C. MURPHREE 123 disproportionately be minorities or older women excluded from the training process (Hirschhorn, 1984~. Minority secretaries also often have a problem of another kind in moving up. Tora Bikson of the Rand Corporation reports in a private communication that the status of a work groupwhat she calls its "organizational niches- is a powerful indicator of the goodness and badness of women's opportunities in an organiza- tion (see also Gutek and Bikson, 19853. Minorities frequently are attached to the least prestigious divisions or departments of an organization. Their superiors, often rn~nority males, have the poorest access to the resources or power structure of the organi- zations and consequently lack the ability to promote their female subordinates ~ any meaningful way. These departments also often have the poorest access to up-to-date equipment, and hence, these secretaries have the least opportunity to acquire those computer skills that would make them the most promotable. They may also be the first unit of an organization to experience budget cuts and, hence, the need for secretarial sharing or m~nipools. Minorities may be disadvantaged by the electronic office in other ways. Electronic telecommunications technology makes it possible for employers to move clerical work away from geograph- ical locations such as inner cities to other locations, such as sub- urban and rural areas, thus depriving minorities of jobs (Nelson, 1984; Baran and Teegarden, 1983~. Another threat is posed by the continuing transfer of clerical jobs out of the United States to cheaper, usually third-worId, labor forces (U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1985~. COMPENSATION AND SKILLS Wages and! Upskilling The issue of equitable wages for secretaries has been of growing importance over the last decade (U.S. Department of Labor, 1986; Professional Secretaries International, 1984~. A great many secre- taries fee! undervalued and underpaid. They resent not being paid for the skills they use, both their traditionally "invisible" gate- keeping (diplomacy) skills and their new computer-based skills. According to a study by Professional Secretaries International (1984), pay for secretaries has been based mainly on seniority. The length of time with an employer, in fact, has more impact
124 NEW TECHNOLOGYAND OFFICE TRADITION on salary than skills, education, or even job title. The next most influential factor affecting the secretary's salary is the title of her boss, followed by scope of the business (regional, national, inter- national); employer's pay policy (whether it pays high, average, or low salaries to all employees); and finally, the number of employees at the work location (the more employees, the higher the salary). The lack of a high school diploma costs a secretary approximately $2,500 a year, while having a master's degree adds only $1,500 to the average annual salary. Experience also counts for little. New secretaries earn only $1,000 a year less than those with 20 years of experience. Titles also count for very little. A move up to a higher title such as "executive assistant" or Senior secretary counts for only about $1,000 a year per step up. With the advent of word processing, the definable skills of the traditional secretary (e.g., typing, filing, shorthand, and gate- keeping) have now been expanded to include data handling, text editing, and other technical computer skids. As a result, the issue of equitable pay for secretarial workers has taken on a new rele- vance. According to a study by Kelly Services, 88 percent of all secretaries believe that learning as much as possible about using word processing will help them increase their salaries. Half, in fact, believe it to be very influential (Kelly Services, 1984~. In many offices, however, skill upgrading has not resulted In greater compensation. In most instances word-processing skins exceed those needed to operate a typewriter. Text editing and formatting, for exam- ple, both demand a degree of knowledge of software and hardware logic. On-line file management demands a blend of cognitive and conceptual skills in addition to computer logic. For example, to set up a workable file management system (e.g., affix appropriate labels to a file, assign key words), secretaries must have a "knowI- edge of contexts that realistically reflects the goad of the boss and the organization as well as the capabilities of the office computer system. Many secretaries, moreover, are taking on training responsi- bilities and acting as informal teachers and instructors to other secretaries and to managers and executives on how to use the new equipment (Kanter, 1983~. Too often these instructional efforts are taken for granted, and the secretary is not paid for her special knowledge.
MARY C. MURPHREE 125 Many employers (and some secretaries) believe that the on- thejob training on new equipment is a sufficient substitute for ad- ditional pay (Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, 1985~. Most secretaries, however, want to see their new computer skills reflected in their paychecks and argue their case through orga- nizations such as Professional Secretaries International and The Working Women's Education Fund. In a recent poll of 1,250 secretaries, almost 90 percent believed their computer skills should earn them higher pay. However, the same survey reports that 58.1 percent fee} that their computer skills had not earned them a higher salary (Fusselman, 1986~. Thirty-five percent of the secretaries interviewed in the Panasonic Study, In fact, cited "insufficient pays as a source of their great- est job stress. In the Kelly survey only 30 percent of the word- processing secretaries interviewed reported receiving pay increases as a result of their word-processing skills. The Educational Fund for Individual Rights also found "a strong minority" perhaps 25- 35 percent of the women VDT users it studied expressing concern about fairness of the pay they were receiving. These attitudes were particularly strong among clericals, including secretaries, under 30 years of age. (This is also the group, according to the Kelly study, most likely to receive a pay increase as a result of developing new word-processing skills (Kelly Services, 1982~.) It is essential that research be undertaken that tracks the types of skills used in different word-processing jobs and how currently these skills relate to wages. Secretaries in private, shared, and team jobs perform very different constellations of tasks and hence are likely to use a different collection of skills. Individuals working in the same kind of word-processing job may vary greatly among one another in expertise. Two secretaries can have very different abilities in exploiting a sophisticated word-processing program like Wordstar(~) or XywriteW. They may differ in the number of commands they know, knowledge of when a command should be used, understanding of the computer's operating system, ability to save space on files, and ability to program the machine to take shortcuts or customize it to their needs. Developing a fair and equitable formula for evaluating word-processing and secretarial skills is an essential job still to be done.
126 NE W TECHNOLOG Y AND OFFICE TRADITION OTHER VARIABLES AFFECTING CHANGE Altered staffing ratios and the authority structure are only some of the organizational variables affecting change in the sec- retary's job. Other important variables include the size of the office, the kind of industry or profession (legal secretary, medical secretary, bank secretary, etc.), and the resources and wealth of the office or work group. Office Size Office size has always had an impact on secretarial work. Sec- retaries working in small offices have always been spared the costs of extreme specialization. Most have great variety in their jobs as "dills" of all trades. Their work includes typing, housekeeping, re- search, inventory control, and accounting. Caste distinctions tend to be played down, with work relations warmer and more family- like and rules and regulations kept to a minimum (Murphree, 1981; Litwak and Figueira, 1968~. Secretaries in small offices nevertheless generally forgo the perks of larger establishments. Large firms often tend to have good back-up services (e.g., duplicating departments, mail and messenger services, canteens in which to make coffee and wash the pot) and higher salary scales. Just as important, large organiza- tions tend to be financially sounder. As one secretary In a very large law firm pointed out to me: "They've got cash at the end of the month; their check is good!" Large organizations also afford a certain panache or status by association that reflects on any employee in her life outside the office, however modest her status at work. ("I can read about our clients in the New York Times.") Computerization is making dramatic inroads in small offices (U.S. Congress, Office of Technological Assessment, 1985~. The impact of automation in small offices alters few of these differ- ences. Its impact, however, is not well defined.~° There are indi- cations that secretaries In small offices may be In a better position to be delegated higher-level computer tasks, such as setting up a computerized billing system or some other administrative or managerial software packages. For example, many small law firms . 10 Unfortunately, we have little systematic research on small-office au- tomation and its effect on secretaries. Such research is essential since small business generates the bulk of new clerical jobs in the United States today, and more and more secretaries are likely to find jobs there.
MARY C. MURPHREE 127 cannot afford customized packages, and the task of adapting a retail software package falls to the legal secretary with initiative. Moreover, while salaries of word-processing secretaries in small offices are likely to remain lower than those of secretaries in large organizations, the opportunity in small firms to broaden one's skills may put the small-office secretary in a better position to advance into higher-paying jobs, depending on the industry in which she works. Industrial Variation Secretarial jobs, before and after the introduction of the com- puter, have tended to vary in significant ways by industry and profession. Want ads routinely promote secretarial jobs by adver- tising different industrial or professional cultures. Secretarial jobs in broadcasting are considered glamour jobs; law and publishing are portrayed as intellectual and dignified; medicine is for the secretary who wants to help people. It is, in fact, true that the service or product put out by a company will have ah effect on the secretary's tasks. Medical secretaries, brokerage secretaries, and academic secretaries, for example, tend to have more client contact than do large-firm legal secretaries. Research, however, indicates that secretaries who work in the professions, while generally better paid (academia is the excep- tion), have the shortest career ladders and least opportunity for mobility into management. In an earlier piece (Murphree, 1981), distinguished between professional or caste bureaucracies and class bureaucracies. In the former (e.g., law and accounting firms), mo- bility is based on credentials, and hence beyond the reach of the secretary. In the latter (e.g., brokerage houses and some man- ufacturing firms), initiative, savvy, and salesmanship are highly valued, and secretaries have a better chance for advancement. Sec- retaries in the caste-like Wall Street law firms are, by definition, barred from moving into any professional jobs, except for two or three supervisory jobs in personnel or as "leadersn or coordinators of a clerical team. Public versus private sector is another variable that may affect the nature of change in secretarial work in the automated office. Public sector secretaries are more likely to be protected by unions than are secretaries in the private sector. Increasingly, contract
128 NEW TECHNOLOGYAND OFFICE TRADITION bargaining includes discussions of the impact of technology on office workers. Negotiating points can include job security, wage increases for word- and data-processing skills learned, ergonomic improvements, and job design standards. Resources and Wealth of Office The quality of secretarial jobs has always varied according to the resources and wealth of the organization. This is no less true in the automated office. Wealthier firms are the most likely to spend extra dollars for upgrading the ergonomics of the office, i.e., improving lighting and air quality, purchasing the proper chairs and desks, and keeping the equipment In top-notch condition. They are also the most likely to preserve the private secretarial role. Secretaries give status to a boss, and this ~ important in many offices. It is not clear~espite vendor cIanns- that a terminal on the boss's desk can replace the prestige of having a secretary. More likely, those who can afford to maximize their status wiD have both a terminal and a secretary. -Most law firms, for example, have maintained private or shared secretaries as long as the bottom line has permitted. Poor firms or economically shaky firms (or poor departments), on the other hand, are the most likely to attempt to cut costs by not replacing secretaries who leave. They may also be more likely to implement secretarial sharing or minipoole In their office when word processing is brought in. They are also the least likely to give extra pay to secretaries who work for a large number of bosses and who have very heavy work loads. CONCLUSION In this paper I have stressed the importance of examining the social context in which office automation is occurring in order to determine its effects on secretaries. ~ have also pointed out the im- portance of examining the differential effects automation can have on various "at risks groups of women office workers, particularly black and Hispanic women, who come into offices with different work histories and backgrounds but who have more than many managers are prepared to acknowledge the same expectations and needs for growth and advancement as their coworkers. Key factors in my analysis have included gender relations at work, especially the persistence of a strong patrimonial tradition
MARY C. MURPHREE 129 in boss-secretary relations, and variation ~ staffing ratio (private, shared, and pool secretaries), which are found in the contempo- rary office. These can- either mitigate or exacerbate traditional social relations between bosses and word-processing secret Aries in important ways. My focus, which considers office automation from the perspec- tive of the word-processing secretary, suggests hypotheses about where it is likely to succeed and to fail. Crucial to its success or failure are the rising expectations working women bring to their jobs and the limited extent to which these expectations are be- ing met. It appears that too often word-processing secretaries are led to expect more from the new technology than it can realisti- cally deliver, given the strong traditions that continue to shape office organization. The trend toward secretarial sharing and cer- tain pool-like arrangements, along with a lack of training, make it impossible for many secretaries to learn and perform the more challenging high-tech tasks technology in principle permits. The persistence of patrimony in certain word-processing settings con- tinues to require secretaries to negotiate their job tasks just as they always have. Mobility and access to real career ladders continue to be a problem. In the new, an in the traditional, office, favoritism and manipulation of a boss is more likely to produce a move upward to a professional position than any reorganization of career ladders that is technology-driven or management-inspired. Moreover, sec- retaries shuttled from private secretarial status into slots as shared secretaries or into strict m~nipool~ lose access to even the short- ladder career routes (e.g., pool to executive) that were formerly available. Wages and salary increases for skins acquired may prove to be the biggest problem of all. Word-processing secretaries may have to work ~smarter" and ~harder" and learn new skills just to maintain their jobs and current pay. This is a source of frustration for many women who look for incentives to Get on the word- processing bandwagons and contribute to office productivity. The dearth of data on the subject should not be minimized. The occupation of secretary has reached a critical juncture in office history. Yet, analysis of it and its incumbents currently must be based on exploratory case study material and crude preliminary survey data. Laclking more reliable data, ~ am restricted in this paper to presenting a series of hypotheses.
130 NEW TECHNOLOGYAND OFFICE TRADITION My inquiry suggests a troubling relationship between women's experiences in the new office and their expectations, at least in the typical case in which office automation is experienced as an invasion of VDT terminals in a piecemeal and unsystematic fash-- ion. Many traditional tasks and rules remain. But there is also a troubling trend toward eliminating some secretarial functions. The trend of word processing by professionals, in which authors or bosses handle everything from the generation of ideas to the generation of finished texts, may be growing. What then becomes of the secretary? What are the conse- quences of these changes for secretarial job design, wages, working conditions, and mobility? What jobs, if any, can minority women move into? What happens to older secretaries? What jobs for women once workers will continue to exist? It is imperative to get answers to these kinds of questions. Careful, systematic research on those pace-setting high-tech envi- ronments that have moved beyond poop or secretarial sharing to a basic redivision of labor may furnish clues to what the nation's largest women's occupation can expect. REFERENCES Appelbaum, Eileen 1984 Technology and the Redesign of Work in the Insurance Industry. Project Report No. 84-A22. Institute for Research on Educational Finance and Governance, School of Education, Stanford University. Austin, William M., and Lawrence C. Drake, Jr. 1985 Office automation. Occupation Outlook Quarterly Spring:16-19. Baker, Elizabeth F`. 1964 Technology and Women'` Work. New York: Columbia University Press. Baran, Barbara, and Suzanne Teegarden 1983 Women's Labor in the Office of the E`uture, Changes in the Occu- pational Structure of the Insurance Industry. Paper Prepared for the Conference on Women and Structural Transformation. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University (November). Benston, Margaret Lowe 1983 For women, the chips are down. Pp. 44-54 in Jan Zimmerman, ea., 17`c Technological Woman. New York: Praeger. Bikson, Tora K., and Barbara A. Gutek 1983 Advanced Office Systems: An Empirical Look at Utilization and Satisfaction. Santa Monica, Calif.: Rand Corporation Publication Series. Bjorn-Andersen, Niels 1983 The changing roles of secretaries and clerks. In New Office Tcchnol- ogy: Human and Organizatiorml Aspects. London: Pinter.
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