Secretary Is Top Job for Women -- Just Like 60 Years Ago!

Despite a vast overhaul to the opportunities available for women, the most popular job remains the same

Hillary Clinton. Janet Napolitano. Sure, we’ve got a lot of female secretaries in the modern era. In fact, it’s the most popular job for women, according to the latest U.S. Census data.

Wait, hold on. Turns out that data refers to a different type of secretary -- the kind also popularly known now as “administrative assistant” or other titles.

The data shows that there were about four million people employed in that role in the country between 2006 and 2010, and the overwhelming majority of those -- 96 percent! -- were women.

“Secretary” was the sort of role most common for women in 1950, when career opportunities were -- ahem -- more limited, to say the least, and only a tiny fraction of women held college degrees. And it’s still the most popular role now, despite the facts that more women earn graduate degrees than men, and women are soaring across a vast number of industries.

So what gives?

"The most significant issue has to do with young women, women reentering the workforce, and women in career transitions still getting the advice that the best entry into a field is through an administrative position," Danna Greenberg, associate professor of organizational behavior at Boston’s Babson College, told Yahoo! Shine. "We would never tell a 21-year-old male college grad that the way into a job is to start in an administrative position. But we're still, unfortunately, in this country, still stereotyping it as a fashionable place for women to start.”

Another reason why? Men, in large part, tend to back away from jobs traditionally dominated by women, favoring traditionally male work -- in industries like manufacturing and construction, with pay at about the same rate.

Data also shows that, despite career experts’ predictions to the contrary, the demand for such work isn’t going away. And the pattern shows it’s likely that women will continue to dominate.

Does the Census data surprise you? Let us know in the comments.

Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.

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