Where The Boys Still Aren't

IN A SUPPOSEDLY GENDER-blind age, why do male secretaries remain a rarity? Rampant discrimination, say numerous guy Fridays and employment experts. The number of male secretaries has barely risen over a decade--so the secretarial pool still resembles the one in the 1980 movie 9 to 5. Ten years ago, when the Labor Dept. broke out the secretarial ranks by sex, there were 37,000 males out of 3.8 million total. The most recent stats: 39,000 out of 3.4 million.

Some bosses' preferences are clear. "`Bob Something' is sent to an office, and they say they don't want a man," says Karen Tulik of Snelling Temporary Services in Kalamazoo, Mich. Reason: Most managers are male; they want female help.

Still, few complaints are filed. "You have to catch them red-handed," says Donn Mitchell, a onetime temp at SmithKline Beecham. He won an undisclosed settlement against the company, which passed him over for a full-time job. SmithKline hasn't admitted to his bias charges. When Mitchell does get work, it's often with female execs--though some in that growing group prefer women helpers, too.

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