4 Kay Symons: assumptions about working women and 'the secretary route'


Some of it I think was men making assumptions about women being good for nurturing and typing and making tea, but not for much else.  And a lot of the men would have gone to boys’ schools and had mothers who worked at home and had never seen women doing anything at all serious.  I don’t think they would be malicious about it necessarily or, you know, unswerving in those views, but they just had no experience of it.

A lot of it was this thing about what happens when you get married and have babies, and the general lack of acceptance that the two things went together, which meant that an awful lot of women would just drop out, which is why they were all men at the top because most of the women who would have been old enough and experienced enough to run companies had decided to do the other thing earlier in their careers.

I think there was also a little bit of a sense of ‘How do you get into publishing?’ So most of the men I knew in publishing had somehow got onto a graduate trainee scheme, or sometimes had started out as a sales rep out on the road, and had then come in to be an editor or a manager or something.

Most of the women I knew in publishing had started out doing something a bit like I had, being a secretary.  And I think sometimes it can be hard to change people’s image of you if you are still at the company that you joined as a secretary.  They might not know what your education is or anything, they just know that you started off as a secretary and ‘Oh gosh, hasn’t she done well!’ you know.  But when you then come to think of further promotion do you think of that person that you vaguely remember being rather good at making the tea as being somebody who you might set on to this bigger project or give experience of managing people or any of that kind of thing?

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