A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled “The Vanishing Executive Assistant.” Several prominent voices in the Executive Assistant community have penned compelling and heartfelt rebuttals to some of the key points presented in the WSJ article.
For example, the article does not distinguish between Administrative Assistant and Executive Assistant, as pointed out in this well-written response from Chrissy Scivicque, Career Coach and Trainer for the EA community.
Also, the Department of Labor has not yet created a job category for “C-Suite Executive Assistants,” as emphasized in another excellent response by Bonnie Low-Kramen, founder of Ultimate Assistant Training & Consulting Inc. This of course means that there are thousands of professionals currently serving in this capacity who were not accounted for in the WSJ article.
The purpose of this post is not to simply reiterate or rephrase these rebuttals, rather to provide data from Savoya’s own internal market research that supports the following hypothesis: Executive Assistants are critical business partners who actually play an increasingly valuable role within their organizations.
The Demographics of EAs Are Changing
In August of 2019, Savoya partnered with prominent market research firm Decision Analyst, Inc. to thoroughly profile the Executive Assistant market. As an organization, Savoya is deeply committed to supporting the EA community for their business travel needs; however, we are also passionate about supporting the EA community with tools and resources to help them achieve their career goals. For this reason, it is critical that Savoya conducts ongoing research to understand the changing needs and dynamics of this group.
Of the survey respondents, almost 29% self-identified as male. It should be noted that 19% of respondents also referred to their role as “Chief of Staff,” and this group skewed more male (59%). However, even given that caveat, these results are a clear, data-supported indicator that the EA role is becoming more gender-diverse.
At 42.1, the average age of EAs is also beginning to skew younger. In fact, 28% of respondents were under 35 years old.
EAs are also becoming more ethnically diverse. While 63% of EAs self-identified as Caucasian, 16% identified as African American and 12% identified as Hispanic. The remaining 9% identified as another ethnicity or preferred not to answer.
Finally, 62% of respondents were college graduates, with 13% indicating advanced or post-graduate degrees as well. Despite some assertions that EA roles have traditionally been a career path that primarily appeals to non-college-educated professionals, this trend appears to have quickly been reversed. In addition to formal education, there are several organizations that are now dedicated to the continuing education and development of EAs and the EA community, such as Executive Leadership Support. Several Savoya team members have had the opportunity to attend their regional forums and have found the content and engagement level to be first-rate.
All of these trends point to one simple conclusion: the EA community is becoming much more demographically similar to other core business functions. This suggests that both employers and employees are increasingly making little distinction between the requirements and responsibilities of EAs and those of Accountants, Sales Agents, Marketers or other areas of business.
The Responsibilities of EAs Are Growing
In addition to becoming more diverse and representative, EAs are also becoming more cross-functional, taking on more responsibility across their organizations. EAs are increasingly expected to engage in activities that actively grow the business. Like other departments, they are often asked to set specific, measurable business goals and report on these activities regularly.
Our recent survey findings supported these insights. Unsurprisingly, most EAs perform several expected, core functions. For example, 91% of survey respondents manage the daily calendar of their executives. 85% set meeting agendas, and 84% screen emails and phone calls.
97% of respondents also coordinate business travel, which is becoming increasingly complex. In addition to managing commercial flights and hotel accommodations, 25% of EAs manage private air travel. 88% manage ground transportation, and 52% arrange personal security for their executive while traveling. Savoya understands how complex these responsibilities can be, and how quickly travel itineraries can change. That’s why we are purpose-built to support EAs and their executives from booking to final destination–and beyond.
In addition to these more traditional functions, 50% of EAs have taken on marketing responsibilities, including things like direct customer outreach and event management. 64% have influence over–or direct responsibility for–company operations. 46% have also onboarded key finance functions, such as budget management.
More and more, EAs are expected to support the overall business in addition to supporting the executives within the business. The are entrusted with, and accountable for, key functions that support the overall health and growth of the organization.
Executive Assistants Are Business Partners and Leaders in Their Organizations
Savoya’s research firmly supports the conclusion that Executive Assistants are critical business partners within their organizations. They are increasingly representative of the business community as a whole. Much like their colleagues from other areas of the organization, they are expected to be cross-functional, and commonly engage in activity that directly leads to business growth. In the words of the aforementioned Bonnie Low-Kramen, “It is time for the perception of the Executive Assistant role to change to one that is rooted in 2020, not 1960.”
Savoya is a proud partner of–and strong advocate for–the EA community. We believe that EAs are important corporate leaders, and critical components to a successful growth strategy. If you have not yet had the opportunity, take the time to read this open letter to Executive Assistants penned by Jeremy Burrows, Creator and Host of The Leader Assistant Podcast. It is well worth your time.
In what other ways are EAs becoming more critical to their organizations? Leave us a note below with your comments.