In the office where I work, there is a phone list that was recently updated to reflect some changes in personnel. On the list, the woman who I had always considered the office secretary was listed as “secretary.” To my surprise, she became very angry at this, and demanded it be changed to “administrative assistant.” Why is the term “secretary” so offensive? No gender is associated with the word in any dictionary I found. And although it is by definition a subordinate* position (although the office would probably fall into chaos fairly quickly without her, she still works for us, not really with us), I see no reason why it would be considered a negative or derogatory title.
According to these dictionaries, the word means “person employed to handle correspondence, keep files, and do clerical work for another person or an organization.” That describes this person’s job perfectly. Is there some negative connotation I am unaware of? Why is “administrative assistant” better than “secretary”? It’s not like it changes the job description. And I have seen both males and females holding this position, regardless of its title. Is there some rational explanation for this? Or is this another example of political correctness? And what is it correcting? I’m really at a loss.
*Please don’t jump on me for this definition, for this is how it works in our company; she has no authority here, but rather works under our authority.