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Honor Thy Administrative Professional

April 19, 1999|BEVERLY BEYETTE

Today kicks off Professional Secretaries Week, a salute to those formerly known as secretaries but who, in these politically correct times, are more apt to be called administrative assistants or information specialists or office coordinators.

It's a dilemma, acknowledges Tom Watters, executive director of the Kansas City-based International Assn. of Administrative Professionals (formerly the National Secretaries Assn.), which in 1952 inaugurated Professional Secretaries Week and Professional Secretaries Day.

"We are considering changing the name of the promotion," Watters says, while acknowledging that "what we call it probably is going to have very little effect. It is so heavily promoted by the florist industry and the greeting card industry. . . . Our greatest fear is that it will go on out there without us, and we won't have any control over it."

While trying "to steer employers away from just sending a bouquet of flowers" or taking their secretary or administrative assistant or office coordinator to lunch, the association doesn't wish to denigrate the term "secretary." Watters notes that among the group's 40,000 members, "a good portion are very proud to be secretaries."

And a more puffed-up title doesn't always mean more money, Watters observes. Still, one argument for dropping "secretary" is that some employers use the term to avoid having to pay the higher salary to which an administrative assistant might feel entitled.

The association, whose primary goals are to promote professional standards and enhance the image of the profession, has also pondered such Professional Secretaries Week questions as: Should you give your secretary or administrative assistant a gift, or would that be considered demeaning? Send your secretary to a seminar? Or just do nothing?

The preferred recognition, association surveys show, is a simple "thank you." Once, candy was dandy and flowers were fine. Today, the association suggests more appropriate gifts: business cards, a desktop nameplate, reference books--or that old standby, money.

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