This is for all of you who work in an office. The other day, this smart older woman told me, “assistants are not as important as their bosses.” And I said, “yes they are.” She returned: “no, they’re not. And that’s how you should think, because you’re an assistant.” And I said, “I’ll never think that way. I am just as important as my boss.” And she said: “well then, maybe you should look for another job. That is not the right attitude to have here.”
Does this sort of thing sound familiar to anyone? This is the reason why the word ‘secretary’ has such a shitty connotation. It’s this sort of thinking that has ground women into the dust in the fight to the top, because a lot of women are assistants (oddly enough, this is true today, as it was in the 1950’s). It’s because women like this wonderful older woman in paragraph one help perpetuate that sort of thinking. That we’re somehow less important because we’re assistants. And because there are – currently – more men than women in higher positions, it sends a bad message to the younger generation. For all those of you younger women reading this, don’t always trust what you see. Just because you see more women assistants and more male CEO’s, do not think that you cannot get to the top. Sure it may be hard, but it can be done.
The plain fact is that in a chain, every single link is important. Bosses cannot function without their assistants, and vice versa. Sure, an assistant can get fired, but so can a boss. An assistant may not be there to witness the firing of a boss, but that does not mean it doesn’t happen. CEO’s get tossed to the curb just like everyone else. We’re all fragile. No one is above the law (or karma). We’re all equal. We all have the same burdens. Your boss is not and never will be more important than you. It may seem that way, but it just is not true.
Never think that you’re any less important simply because you work in a cubicle. Because you’re someone’s secretary or assistant. Einstein was a library clerk when he wrote his e=mc2 equation and turned the world on its ass. Amy Pascal started off as a secretary and rose to the top at Sony. Recently she was let go from that post because Sony needed a scapegoat for the hacking scandal. And she bore that gracefully, as well.
It is important to note that a lot of folks just don’t expect a lot out of women. I remember this older man who recently retired from the place I work at. When I told him I felt I’m not really contributing to the world, he said, “well, you’re a very competent employee.” Like that’s supposed to be some kind of panacea to hold onto while I watch people like Elon Musk go to Mars. What the fuck? I mean, it was nice of him to say that. He’s a really smart man, but he’s kind of a hardass, and a pain to work with sometimes; and I also know he was a bit of a male chauvinist—which is fine. People should be absolutely free to do anything they want. In fact, please feel free to hate me. But back to the point—that comment, coming from him, meant I was pretty good at my work. Great! But I know he also offered it as solace. Like, well, you’re a chick, and for a chick you do pretty good work.
Well, it’s not good enough. And it shouldn’t be good enough for you. I want all of us to get out there and fuckin’—conquer the world! Conquer it with anything you have—your words, your voice, your knack for fixing things, your talent for math or music or rocket science—whatever it might be. Anything less is unacceptable. So what if you work in a cubicle? The world is just sitting there for anyone bold enough to pick it out of the gutter. Go for it.