This month's blog comes to you from our male Executive Assistants (EAs) from across the globe, reflective of the international celebration of International Men’s Day and the international importance of the topics associated. On 19th November and throughout the month, we celebrate International Men’s Day, which is a time for us to come together and support, celebrate and highlight positive male role models and raise awareness of topics that affect men around the world such as mental health issues, physical well-being, socioeconomic challenges, and toxic masculinity.
As you may know, being an EA is typically a female profession, so being a male EA certainly has its set of own unique advantages and challenges. In this blog, you will hear Jordan, Dimi, Felipe, and Hari’s perspectives and about their journeys in overcoming gender stereotypes within the EA profession that have led them to where they are now, including useful tips for thriving in the EA profession.
How did I get into this field of work? – Jordan Winter
It is vital for you to know that everyone’s journey is completely different. Whilst my experiences may have led me down this path, not everyone’s story is going to be the same.
For me it all started when I was 18 and thinking about my future. I was never the most academic or studious type and had a pragmatic attitude about getting into the workplace. I started researching and found the perfect college called ‘Quest Professional’. To me this was the ideal course as it consisted of fundamental IT training, as well as other elements of marketing and leadership. I was delighted to be accepted as only one of two males in my intake group, which was probably because the course was deemed ‘secretarial’.
After completing this course, I successfully gained a work placement at a large international law firm, for a Team Assistant position. This was my first real life experience in the world of work, and it was in this role, supporting the Personal Assistants, that I found myself being the only full-time male. This made me a little apprehensive at first, but overtime my confidence grew as the quality of my work was noticed and trust developed that I was just as capable.
My work experience following this was made up of a variety of administration roles across different sectors. This made me appreciate working with people from diverse backgrounds, where everyone brings their unique experience and perspective to the table. This journey led me to starting my first EA role, post-pandemic, for an international charity and a well-known Orchestra, supporting the Chief Executive Officer. During the 18 months before joining Baringa, I became a successful EA with the capability to manage busy diaries whilst juggling all sorts of other priorities.
I am excited by what is to come in my career as a male EA. Despite the focus of this blog, I would like to say, I absolutely love being surrounded by all my capable and strong female colleagues!
How do you find working in a female dominated environment? - Dimi Yanakov
In a society where traditional gender roles and stereotypes are being challenged, it is crucial to highlight experiences that defy these norms. As a male EA working at Baringa, a position with a predominantly female workforce, I have had the privilege of gaining a unique perspective on day-to-day life in this female-dominated environment.
Working in this role has allowed me to fully appreciate the significance of diversity. Baringa's culture promotes an inclusive atmosphere where individuals are encouraged to value the richness of varied backgrounds and viewpoints. As a male EA, I have come to understand the importance of fostering a work environment where everyone's skills and insights are respected, irrespective of gender, enabling us to work together harmoniously to achieve our common goals.
My experience has been both enlightening and transformative. I have gained a profound appreciation for the power of challenging gender stereotypes, and the significance of effective communication and collaboration. The mutual respect and trust among colleagues has not only enhanced my personal and professional growth but has also made my work incredibly fulfilling.
I am proud to be part of a company that champions gender equality and fosters an inclusive workplace. Baringa's commitment to diversity and inclusion is not just commendable, but also a testament to the numerous benefits, which make the company a global leader in the economy of kindness. I look forward to continuing my journey with Baringa, where diversity, inclusion, and excellence go hand in hand.
What challenges you may face as a male working in this role – Felipe Cancelieri
When I started to think about the challenges I face as a male EA, a question came to mind, “Has this always been the case?”, I decided to do some research and found the answer. NO, the EA position was a male role prior the second world war. However, when men were requested to join the frontline, women stepped in to perform the EA role and duties. After the war, where so many sadly lost their lives, women continued to be employed as EAs and as a result, paved the way of, nowadays, a predominantly female position.
The history is one thing, but let me share with you some of the challenges and difficulties I experience as a male EA:
- Assumptions about my sexuality because of intrinsic biases.
- Uncertainty from recruiters when the executive to support is female.
- My skills and ability to perform the role and exceed expectations questioned by female colleagues.
- Friends and family intrigued by my career choice as an ‘assistant’ instead of pursuing managerial roles.
Overcoming gender bias and stereotypes is crucial to reduce the impact it has on our careers and professional interactions, helping change the perception that we are not working to the best of our ability, just by the simple fact we are men.
Every job has its own advantages as well as disadvantages and it is no different for EAs. However, from my experience, if you enjoy the thrill that comes from the unknown, are passionate about solving problems even before they happen, and always having to think outside the box to produce creative last-minute solutions, then this is the role for you.
No matter who we are, or how we identify, EAs are the unsung heroes in any corporate environment. There it is, I said it!
What advice would you give other males wanting to become an EA - Zahari Mihaylov
Being an EA can be a rewarding and challenging role irrespective of gender. If this is a career path you are thinking about, walk in confidence that the stereotype of an EA role is changing, and your gender should not hold you back from a career that you love and enjoy.
Here are my top tips to becoming an effective EA:
- You need to develop strong organisational skills. Consider managing calendars and sorting your to-do lists as a top priority.
- Clear and concise communication is essential. Ensure you can communicate professionally, both in writing and verbally. Active listening is just as important as conveying your thoughts effectively.
- Maintain a high level of professionalism in your interactions with colleagues and clients. This includes maintaining confidentiality and exhibiting a strong work ethic.
- EAs are often called upon to resolve issues and make decisions. Developing problem-solving skills and the ability to think on your feet is crucial as well as maintaining a calm disposition in moments of crisis.
- Emotional intelligence is valuable when working with people in high-pressured situations. Being empathetic, understanding, and managing your emotions effectively can help you achieve the best outcome in every situation.
- Ask for feedback from your executives and colleagues to improve your performance. Constructive criticism will help you grow in your role and always make sure you have clear goals to work towards, that keeps you motivated.
It is during these awareness events we highlight the importance of sharing experiences, challenges, and journeys. We hope you have enjoyed hearing our stories and have taken at least one key message from this blog, careers should not be limited or exclusive to gender.
Being a male EA is different, but we should be encouraging this field of work amongst the younger generations. We, as a modern working society, pride ourselves in diversity and inclusion. There is lots of commendable campaigning to support women in the workplace at all levels, however, at times there is still an area for improvement around supporting males. But most importantly, we need to remove the gender expectations and boundaries for a brighter and loving future.
Happy International Men’s Day 2023. We give thanks and appreciation to all our male colleagues and trusted allies around the world!
About the authors:
Jordan has over 10 years’ professional administration experience and has been an EA at Baringa for just over a year, supporting Partners within the Resources Transition Energy Team. Jordan is a keen animal lover and is involved with his local RSPCA branch as a trustee, volunteer, and cat fosterer. In his spare time, Jordan enjoys watching films and crime dramas, reading, and having coffee!
Dimitar is an EA supporting Partners within our Products and Services sector. He has been with Baringa for almost four months. He spent over 12 years in the sports industry as an EA in the Bulgarian Biathlon Federation. In his spare time, he likes to travel and read spy novels.
Felipe has over 10 years’ experience as an administrative professional. He joined Baringa in May as an Executive Assistant to four partners in Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence team, bringing with him great experience managing events and promoting the D&I agenda. He loves self-care and beauty products.
Zahari is an EA in our Operational Support Team. He has been at Baringa for almost a year providing support across all Partners and their teams. Although he loves to provide support to other people, he doesn't forget to take care of himself through gym and spending time with family and friends.
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