Ask an Admin: How Can I Challenge the Gender Stigma of the Profession as a Male Administrative Professional?

April 5, 2024


Male business professional

The administrative profession is no stranger to stigma and biases. In fact, many still hold the assumption that the field is solely designed for and operated by females. However, in recent years, this trend has been shifting, and, as more men join the industry, this idea continues to be challenged. 

During Admin Month, we wanted to bring this important topic of conversation to Elijah "Tony" Crawford, Administrative Operations Manager at Vanderbilt University and ASAP Advisory Board Chair. Read on to find out his advice for others males on how they can begin to pave the way and bring about more awareness and inclusion in the profession.  

Watch Tony's video response and read more below!

Question: How Can I Challenge the Gender Stigma of the Profession as a Male Administrative Professional?

Elijah "Tony" Crawford: Approaching the gender gap as a “stigma” is the last way that you want to approach it. This ideology is simlar to that of the “male nurse.” There is a space, and a place, for male-identifying professionals at all levels of the administrative profession. 

What seems to be at issue is that this “stigma” is a relic from times of old when the job of the administrator, or secretary, was to get coffee, make copies, and answer the phones. The role has evolved so much since those times, but the PR machine has not caught up with the facts. As a male in this profession, I have found it to be one of the most rewarding fields in which I’ve had the privilege to participate. It takes a special type of person to perform well as an administrative professional and that “specialness” is not tied to gender. It is tied to the nature of the person and how they like to show up for their executive, their team, and most importantly, themselves. 

1. Challenge your assumptions

Whatever you think this profession is… it is not. The role of the admin has morphed from that stereotypical position that was shown on tube TVs before technicolor. It is a strategic partner that is ubiquitous in most organizations. If you wonder who keeps the lights on, who makes sure funds are reimbursed, or who updates the websites, those answers are all the same—an admin did it.

Titles don’t tell the tale. It’s easy to identify admins from the outside when you see “administrative assistant, office assistant, executive assistant” in the job posting. However, hr coordinators, office administrators, receptionists, administrative analysts, and even my title, Administrative Operations Manager, are administrative professionals as well. 

2. Seek what YOU value

Of course you want to know and market the value that you bring to an organization—it’s a no-brainer when you’re looking for a new role. However, it is also important to pursue what you value, what brings YOU joy, and what inspires YOU to deliver great work. It takes a special person to be a great admin. If being that go-to person for your friends and family brings a smile to your face and delivering great advice or a really good meal to a loved one is compensation enough to warm your heart, this is a field where you may thrive. Network with others in this field, either through online groups or those in the role that you admire, as there is great insight to be gained from those that have been doing it. 

3. Be confident

If being an admin is your goal, you must be able to demonstrate your confidence (not to be confused with haughtiness). Most people have served as an admin at some point in their lives. Whether you were responsible for organizing the family picnic, making the dental appointment for your child, or making a recipe from scratch, all of these actions require some level of people management, scheduling, and time management. Consider these things as part of the foundation that will make you a great admin and lean into the choice to make it a career.  

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