Your guide to the International Year of the Secretary and Assistant

1. What is IYOTSA?

IYOTSA is the International Year of the Secretary and Assistant. It takes place this year, 2014. In 1984, a similar international celebration was organised by the PSI and 2014 marks its 30th anniversary. The 2014 celebrations are coming out of South Africa and aim to raise the profile of the role as a profession, rather than just a job, changing the perception of the secretarial role as purely a support role and explaining how businesses can best use those that are in the role.

2. Who is involved?

Over 100 secretarial associations/organisations worldwide have requested information following an announcement that South Africa would like to organise an international celebration of the profession for 2014.

3. What is IYOTSA’s vision for this year-long event?

The vision is that we change the world for Assistants all over the world this year so that they are recognised for the work that they do. Not just an inward exercise in self-congratulation, we want Assistants, their businesses, Associations, trainers and companies that support this sector to campaign for the recognition of this role as a profession.

4. Why is this important?

Did you know that a fifth of the world’s working population works in Administration? That is a whole heap of people to be misunderstood. One of the top degrees you can take is an MBA – a Masters in Business Administration. Think about some of the key roles in our world – titles like Secretary of State and General Secretary prove how important this role can be at the highest level, and yet the majority of businesses still think of its Assistants as doing menial and unimportant work. International Year of the Secretary will be a great opportunity to spread the word that this is no longer the case and to explain how the role has changed.

Since 2008 and the collapse of Lehmans, Assistants have been doing the roles of the middle management in addition to their own roles, because that layer of management were made redundant. Initially Assistants were told that that they would be taking on these tasks “in the interim”, most Assistants didn’t get any training for these additional tasks or any extra money but did get an increase in workload of usually about 50% on top of what they were doing already. It makes it the perfect time to launch this campaign so businesses understand what the role is now. This year should be a celebration of the backbone of commerce.

We want to make businesses understand that the other companies that are using the role properly, they see their Assistants as far more that of a strategic business partner these days, rather than as a pure support mechanism. In many cases we are seeing Heads of Administration on Boards of companies – rather than the common perception of the Assistant as a Dolly Parton or Mad Men stereotype. Please see Melba Duncan’s excellent article on this subject.

5. What is the official kick-off date for IYOTSA worldwide?

IYOTSA runs from 1 January to 31 December 2014

6. How will each country celebrate and participate?

Each country will have an official Ambassador for IYOTSA who will coordinate activity within their country. We aim to have an Ambassador in place in every country by the end of 2014. Any event taking place, anywhere in the world for Assistants can apply to be part of IYOTSA and carry the logo. The Ambassador will also work with Associations, companies and individual Assistants to raise the profile of the Assistant within their country and to sign as many companies up as possible to commit to the IYOTSA charter (see below). Ambassadors will also coordinate media and press activity in their country. We are aiming for National coverage in newspapers, on TV and on the radio but local is also important, so we are encouraging companies and Assistants to contact local newspapers, magazines and radio stations about IYOTSA. In addition, Ambassadors will be responsible for contacting and raising awareness of IYOTSA with politicians. Please contact us to find out who your country’s Ambassador is or to volunteer.

7. What is the IYOTSA charter and how can my company get involved?

The Charter falls into three parts and any company anywhere in the world can sign up to it as a show of commitment to its administrative staff. Companies that commit to the Charter will be able to use the IYOTSA logo on websites, promotion, job advertisements etc. Getting involved in the Charter does not require any financial commitment and provides your company with an opportunity to promote their commitment internally (which will boost morale) and externally (which will generate excellent PR for your company locally and give you an opportunity to get IYOTSA into the local media).

We will have a page on our IYOTSA website to list the businesses that have agreed to take up the Charter. This promotes the businesses but also means that if a business gets involved in one country, Assistants in other countries can pick up the mantle – so for example, if Ralph Lauren in Italy agrees to take part, Assistants with contacts at Ralph Lauren in the rest of the world can get on the case, as well as Assistants at competitive companies.

Here is the overview:

Every Administrative Professional, EA, Secretary, Management Assistant, PA – whatever they are called, anywhere in the world will: a) have a job description that accurately depicts the role they are doing b) receive investment in their personal development whether this is in terms of money or time to participate c) have the opportunity to network with their peers.

Once a company has agreed to the above, the company can carry the IYOTSA logo for the year. It is a great way for companies to show and talk about their commitment to their Assistants in 2014.

More detail:

Job descriptions

Every Assistant’s job description should accurately reflect their actual job description, not just a generic template with a “and everything else we want to give you” clause at the bottom. Without a proper job description, career progression and pay increases are hampered because Assistants are not being measured against what they actually do. This is the perfect time to rethink job descriptions because, as explained above, the role has changed totally in the last five years. It makes it the perfect time to launch this campaign so businesses understand what the role is now.
Julie Perrine ( is the Queen of procedures. There is no better trainer to develop a process specifically for IYOTSA for Assistants to take back to their businesses and use to get job descriptions right. She has agreed to develop the process and template specifically for the IYOTSA website and to film a downloadable free webinar to train Assistants how to do it.

We are also aiming to compile a definitive list of job descriptions and publish research during 2014.

In the long term we would like this part of the charter to lead to discussions on worldwide agreed job titles, qualifications and career progression.

Personal development and training

Companies should commit to invest in training either in terms of money or time to take part in training.

We don’t want to make this about money which is why we have suggested investment either in terms of time or money. But bearing in mind the enormous shift in the role, many Assistants are in great need of proper training and personal development to help them with the new roles that they have.

Executive Secretary magazine already has a page online with training on it, where anyone can post their training or networking event for free. We will also be setting up an IYOTSA page where trainers/training companies can put what training they are offering for free. We will be encouraging all our contacts to offer as much as they can, whether this is in the format of free webinars, all the way through to scholarship places at some of the biggest conferences in the world. If you are a trainer that would like to get involved, please email me so we can start discussions as to what you might do to help.

We will also be conducting some research into training for Assistants, What is the average investment globally, which country has the most investment, when was the last time you had training, how many hours on average a year, when was the last time you asked? – that kind of thing.
We want those who have not got access to any training to be able to email us for us to match them with free training resources.

We will guarantee anyone who puts their name down will have had some form of training by the end of the year. We will also post a “Business Case for Training” document in this section. I will have spoken in 21 countries in 2013 at over 100 events and in 2014 hope to speak at even more than this.

As the magazine is the Official Global Brand Ambassador for IYOTSA, I want to use this opportunity to spread the word about IYOTSA and get the audiences excited and committed to it. I am happy to attend any event, anywhere in the world in 2014 and speak or Chair for free, as long as my travel and accommodation are covered. We have a very small window of opportunity to make a difference. Please contact me if you would like me to come and speak at an event that you are hosting. Testimonials are available at my profile.


All companies that sign up to the Charter should either have their own internal Assistant Network or actively encourage their Assistants to join a local networking group for Assistants.

Executive Secretary magazine already lists networking groups and events but would want to expand this for 2014 and make it more useable, allowing groups/events to upload their own content and make it searchable.

We also want to recognise companies that have their own internal Assistant networks.

We will be conducting research this year into the ROI on these networks as well as what works and what doesn’t when you set one up. This will all help with the message.

We want to put Assistants in touch with local networking groups so they are not so isolated which is the single one thing that we hear most when we meet Assistants. It can be a very lonely job.

In addition there is work to be done pairing Assistants and organisations in more affluent countries with those that are without. We need to encourage them to pull together the IAAP Johannesburg scholarship scheme, which supports those without the revenue to pay for their own training to train to be Assistants – a great example of what can be done. IAAP Johannesburg pays their fees, for books, for a suit for the first interview, for travel etc.

8. Will we see/meet all the other countries participating in IYOTSA?

There will be a website which will keep you up to date with all activities and press surrounding IYOTSA. Your country Ambassador will cascade information down to us so we can put it on the website.

Events will also be listed as well as participating companies and Associations.
Watch this space for details of a very special international event for all Association representatives.

We would like to connect as many IYOTSA supporters as possible next year for the good of the profession.

9. What message does IYOTSA want the media to promote?

There will be official Press Releases throughout the year and we are working on getting interviews with some high powered Assistants so we have something generic to send out but the key messages are above. At a local level, we are happy to give you freedom to promote the year in whatever way you see fit.

10. Does IYOTSA have a social media presence?

IYOTSA is already set up on Twitter at @IYOTSA14. Hashtags are #iyotsa14 #changingtheworld #oneprofession:onevoice and on LinkedIn at
Follow both to be kept up to date with what is going on globally.

11. I want to be involved! Give me some ideas – what can we do to help?

We are looking for Associations all over the world to get involved and spread the word to their members.

All Associations, organisations and trainers that are involved can display the logo on their websites.

  • Could you organise an event or a series of events, or do you already organise events that could come under the IYOTSA banner?
  • Could you generate media attention both for you, IYOTSA and the profession?
  • Do you have a magazine or website that could carry information or news about IYOTSA?
  • Do you have an internal newsletter/magazine/intranet where you can raise awareness for the role and its transformation within your business?
  • Would you be able to help us to get companies to sign up to the Charter – whether many or just one?
    Do you have training/personal development either online or face to face that you would be prepared to offer free of charge?
  • If you organise a conference, could you get a few places sponsored so people who wanted a scholarship place could attend?
  • Do you have a database of Assistants that you could contact to help us spread the word?
    What contacts do you have that might help us? Do you know people in the media or politics who might get involved and help? Not only that but what contacts do your contacts have? This is where networking comes into play.
  • Not sure yet how you might be involved but still want to be kept up to date? You can still contact us and we will put you on the database to receive the newsletter so you can keep up to date.

We would love to hear any ideas that you might have to help spread the word too. Get in touch.

12. How is Executive Secretary magazine involved?

The IYOTSA initiative is coming out of Johannesburg and the PAFSA but they need a global media partner that can get the message out there and that is working on it 24/7. At Executive Secretary, we also have day to day contact with 82 associations and organisations for Assistants all over the world as well as many trainers which makes us an ideal partner for this initiative.

We have therefore taken on the ‘Global Brand Ambassador’ mantle.

For more details or to get involved, please contact: Lucy Brazier on

Lucy also recently took part in a free webinar on the subject of IYOTSA that was hosted by Delip Andra from To view the webinar, please visit

Lucy Brazier, OBE is one of the world’s leading authorities on the administrative profession. Author of ‘The Modern-Day Assistant: Build Your Influence and Boost Your Potential’, she is the CEO of Marcham Publishing, a global force synonymous with world- ... (Read More)

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