Episode 105: The Assistant

You need to have serious ambition but on behalf of the person you’re supporting, not on behalf of yourself.
— Jessica Williams
 Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams

I want to be so much better at what I do...I’m very content to support a person who’s in charge, and having them trust me and know that I’ve got their back.
— Janel Wallace
 Janel Wallace

Janel Wallace

A few years ago I found out the most popular job for women in America is the same as it was in the 1950s - administrative assistant, or secretary. I was shocked. How could this be, in an era where women are more educated than men? Why are so many of us still working to support other people - mostly men - rather than pursuing something for ourselves?

I set out to tackle those questions in this show, and take a look at the assistant role as it exists now. Typing and dictation are largely out, while managing executives' lives and company projects are in. But traditional aspects of the job remain. This is a role women still flock to, and are sought for, while men are largely absent. 

My guests are Jessica Williams, who heads the recruitment firm Sidekicks in London, and Janel Wallace, an executive assistant at a global company based in the US. 

Further reading: Jessica Williams wrote this piece for the Guardian on tackling 'acceptable sexism' in her industry. 

This is an interview with Lynn Peril who wrote a book about the history of the profession called Swimming in the Steno Pool

You can also read a transcript of the show