The best secretary has an open cheque book

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The Independent Online
The more aware participants in office life have long known that real power can lie with the secretaries. Now it appears that they have financial clout to go with their organisational muscle.

According to a survey published last week by the secretary recruitment specialist Reed Employment Services, 46 per cent of secretaries can sign off money spent on a project on their own authority, without having to seek additional clearance.

While 28 per cent of the 248 senior secretaries questioned could sign off work or orders worth up to pounds l,000 on their own authority, 18 per cent had a higher limit.

Twelve per cent of the sample could sign off between pounds 1,000 and pounds 10,000 on any one project, with 2 per cent able to sign off between pounds 10,000 and pounds 50,000 and 4 per cent having no set limit or an unlimited budget under their control.

And, though 41 per cent of secretaries are always given a budget within which to work, their influence is not limited to signing off. They also play a significant part in choosing such suppliers as hotels, airlines, couriers and stationery companies. With outsourcing gaining popularity, purchasing decisions are becoming increasingly common and important. A quarter of secretaries estimate the value of the areas in which they have influence to be at least pounds 50,000 a year, while 2 per cent say it reaches between pounds 500,000 and pounds lm a year.

Such decision-making power is leading many to question the validity of the secretarial job title. Indeed, 10 per cent of people traditionally regarded as secretaries already hold such titles as business administrator, administrative supervisor, executive assistant, office manager, customer support manager and marketing co-ordinator. However, the vast majority are almost evenly split between being called PA or secretary.

When asked what they would prefer to be called, secretaries made such suggestions as el supremo, chief dogsbody or manager, though most agreed with the respondent who insisted: "People should value the word secretary. I like the title." While 59 per cent said they would prefer to be called something else, 70 per cent said they were proud of the title secretary.

James Reed, director of Reed Employment Services, concluded: "Whether or not the job gains a new title such as executory, this is certainly time to reappraise the importance of secretaries as real decision-makers within modern organisations"n

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