Where Have All the Secretaries Gone?

Executive assistants are disappearing from the workforce. It’s time to bring them back
“Mad Men”’s Teyonah Parris, in character as Dawn Chambers, Don Draper’s secretary Photograph by Jeff Minton for Bloomberg Businessweek; Prop styling: Patrick Muller; Wardrobe stylist: Anna Roth Milner

“He may act like he wants a secretary, but most of the time they’re looking for something between a mother and a waitress,” says office manager Joan Holloway to new recruit Peggy Olson in Season One of Mad Men. The show, which returns to AMC for its sixth season on April 7, revels in the ghosts of offices past: drinking on the job, racist jokes, typewriters. Mad Men’s Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency is built around a charmingly retro (if gallingly sexist) division of labor. Secretaries screen calls, arrange meetings, manage calendars—and often make great wives—allowing their bosses to create life-changing ad campaigns and go out for boozy client lunches. Tellingly, everyone’s desk looks fastidiously neat. Those were the days.

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