Helen Monument and Eth Lloyd report on the 13th World Administrators Summit, held in February and March 2024

The 13th Summit was held in two parts; the first was an online session held on 17 February 2024 with 21 countries and 61 attendees where initial discussions were held on the four topics. The second was face to face and hosted by the Association of Administrative Professionals New Zealand Inc. (AdmiNZ). After the pandemic restrictions of the past years, it was a delight to finally meet face to face for the 13th WA-Summit in Wellington, New Zealand, on 5 & 6 March 2024. We were extremely grateful that delegates and participants from 10 countries bringing 35 attendees made the journey to create an atmosphere of collaboration, synergy and teamwork.

The WA-Summit is not a conference. It’s a working meeting, held every two years, at which leaders of associations and networks from around the world come together with industry experts and stakeholders to discuss and find solutions for the challenges that are currently facing our profession. These topics were gathered through our 2023 global survey.

The WA-Summit is committed to inclusion, so we did things differently this year by moving on from ‘observers,’ who in the past were generally silent attendees. As well as our delegates, who are credentialed and carry the mandate of their association, networks or organisation, we added the more inclusive ‘participant’ category, who were welcome to join us and to contribute with their input to all the discussions.

The feedback was very positive, particularly from those attending for the first time.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but I was overwhelmed and blown away by the experience that I’ve had. I’ve learned so much about the profession. It’s been wonderful to connect with people from around the world on so many levels. I don’t think it will be the last time that I will be entering this space.” ~ Zach Edwards, New Zealand

“I am so happy to be here in person for the first time. I will be bringing more delegates with me next time. This is a room full of bright minds and generous hearts bound together. There are different cultures and ways of working, but we have so many aims and values in common, and this is what makes the sky the limit for what we want to do, to put our dreams into action to change the world one conversation at a time.” ~ Pepita Soler, Pepita’s Secretary Club, Brazil

“I am so thankful and privileged to be here and have the chance to talk to delegates from different countries. It’s my first time participating in a world summit and I’m thankful I came out of my shell and dared to speak as a representative here in New Zealand. I came empty-handed, but I go back to my country with my hands full of ideas of what has been given and shared at the Summit.” ~ Violet Hohoa, Samoa

“There have been amazing contributions from all during the two days, including upcoming work by the task forces, and this is how we continue to move forward and create change. We can all make a difference; my objective was to find out how I could contribute, and I’ve done that.” ~ Angela Simms, New Zealand

“A big thank you to the WA-Alliance leaders and everyone for allowing me to come into this space and for providing safety for me to share my thoughts and feelings. We have gone from me, to we, to us. Diversification of thought is so valuable, and I am happy to continue with these conversations.” ~ Katie Mercier, IAAP, USA

“We look to the WAA Leadership as mentorship to take back to my country’s association. It’s so exciting to see new countries joining the Summit, like Samoa and Vietnam.” ~ Heather Batchelor, AIOP, Australia

“Communication is a very powerful tool, and thanks to the WAA, I dared to take the initiative to come to the Summit. This was my first time in such an international arena. Joining face to face with the leaders of the WAA and interacting with the leaders of associations from around the world is such a big deal. I will go home prepared to continue with those collaborations. I’ve been inspired, encouraged and motivated to take back all I’ve heard and learned to my business and to my professional association for the benefit of administrative professionals in my country.” ~ Freda Elia, Papua New Guinea

“Being in this room is a beautiful reminder that we represent an incredible, awesome number of administrative professionals. We have a huge responsibility to inspire administrative professionals who don’t know about us yet or have access to the stories we’ve heard today. I am carrying that responsibility with me as I leave Wellington. Thank you to the WA-Summit for inspiring the work we do every day.” ~ Melissa Mahoney, IAAP, USA

“This is my first time here. My expectation was to hear about different ways we can help administrative Assistants in our association, and what I’ve learned will do exactly that. Administrative professionals in our society are at the bottom of the ladder, but if we look at them closely, they are the front line, projecting the image of our organizations. They should be receiving the training and visibility they deserve, and I want to do that in my country. I have learned so much.” ~ Maryanne Maspook, Papua New Guinea

“There have been some incredible conversations in this room; we will leave this space richer for being one profession, one voice. This profession is often seen as being ‘not very powerful,’ but I believe an exceptional Assistant can take a mediocre executive and make them exceptional. There is a mission to do that in this room.” ~ Lucy Brazier, OBE, Spain

The agenda was fully loaded for the initial line discussions and two days of face-to-face. However, the most important outcomes are from the facilitated discussions at the online session at which everyone’s voice was heard. These outcomes were then further discussed and accepted as actions through voting by the face-to-face delegates, including votes from those countries at the online discussions (each country having only one vote).

The sessions were lively and engaging. The facilitators took their respective online groups through the background of the topic. They then posed questions that resulted in some great outcomes, which were shared in Wellington and further discussion was invited. The outcomes were then confirmed to be taken forward as goals for Administra with actions by newly formed task forces.

The Business Partnership with Your Executive – How Can You Maximize It?

Lucy Brazier kicked off the discussion by thanking everyone who contributed to the online session. It will be of great benefit to the profession if we can make HR and executives understand what Assistants can do and how they can partner with us properly. Executives don’t seem to immediately ‘get’ the partnership idea until it’s explained to them. We give executives their time back so that they can function properly, so there is a wellness aspect to this discussion too. When each party understands each other’s skillset, the partnership starts to work. Goals are aligned, trust and reliability are enhanced, organisational culture and values are fostered, and a better work-life balance is achieved.

Next steps

  • Education of HR and executive
  • Sharing the Global Skills Matrix
  • Establishment of professional boundaries
  • Sharing best practices and case studies
  • Meeting regularly with your executive
  • Building a community and your own culture
  • Networking – internally and externally
  • Onboarding

As a result of these discussions, a new task force was formed that will take these actions forward. They need to create a communication plan and provide materials and resources, to share with all administrative professionals in a multitude of different formats, to explain:

  • To executives, how to maximise the partnership with their Assistant
  • To Assistants, how to maximise the partnership with their executive

Diversity & Inclusion – How Can You Champion It?

Our facilitator for this session was Heather Baker, who led the discussion by defining what is meant by diversity and inclusion (D&I). Very often our profession is excluded from opportunities and benefits that are offered to other functions within our companies. Many suggestions were made about what actions can be taken by individual administrative professionals and associations and networks to champion diversity, inclusion and belonging. The outcomes from this session will be incorporated as guidelines into Administra, the World Action Plan of the WA-Alliance under a new goal on Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging.

Next steps for associations and networks

  • Form a dedicated diversity and inclusion committee or task force in the associations to drive initiatives. This group can develop strategies, organise events and provide guidance on integrating D&I principles into all aspects of the organisation’s operations.
  • Create platforms for storytelling as a form of gathering feedback from members on their experiences with diversity and inclusion within the association. Use this feedback to continuously assess progress, identify areas for improvement and refine strategies for promoting D&I.
  • Provide training and panel discussions as a sharing and learning arena, offering a psychologically safe space for administrative professionals to discuss relevant issues within diversity and inclusion.
  • Promote diversity in leadership by encouraging diversity in leadership positions within the association.
  • Actively recruit and support candidates from underrepresented groups, providing leadership development opportunities and mentorship.

Next steps for individuals

  • Examine how we see the internal network of administrative professionals in our companies to create more collaboration and minimize competition among professionals, especially taking into account diversity, inclusion and belonging.
  • For meetings in English, share the agenda in advance to respect those who do not have English as their first language.
  • Lead by example, including being very aware of the language we use.
  • Form partnerships.

Artificial Intelligence – How Can You Embrace It?

AI is a hot topic within our profession. Facilitator Sherie Pointon took the group through the fears, benefits and pitfalls of this ever-changing technology that is already impacting our profession. We must all become the change we wish to see in providing support to administrators to recognize AI as a new world order. These recommendations on artificial intelligence will be included under the technology guidelines in Administra.

  • Administrative professionals need to set themselves up to be the voice, to share the knowledge and be the change.
  • Become the super users and have a place at the table when it comes to AI integration, testing and implementation within their companies.
  • Become the voice in their organization, highlighting tools and links to AI training to resources for their peers who wish to step up, and make sure the knowledge is widely shared.
  • Associations and networks need to be encouraged to speak with one voice to their members, helping them to weigh up the merits and the pros and cons of AI. Part of the change is to encourage others to connect with their IT departments, offering to pilot new software/products.

The main message here was that your job will not be taken over by AI, but by someone who knows how to use AI. So, make sure that someone is you!

The WA-Summit – How Can You Engage with It?

This very important topic was run as a plenary session online so that everyone could give their input. Further discussion was held in Wellington, where voting was undertaken to confirm the outcomes reached.

Eth Lloyd, with her expert knowledge of all things related to the WA-Summit, explained what the Summit aims are, and how we have evolved to where we are today. To be sustainable for the future, we need to know what the expectations are from the industry.

All agreed that the Summit is going from strength to strength and provides a firm foundation for the WA-Alliance to meet its goals to Guide, Develop, Influence and Elevate the administrative profession.

Delegates voted unanimously in favour of continuing the work of the WA-Summit and that the WA-Alliance will ensure that outcomes, tools and reports developed after each WA-Summit are widely shared. The success of the Global Skills Matrix is an example of how effective this sharing can be.

Delegates also agreed that the WA-Summit continue with its current intention to encourage administrative professional delegates and participants to gather and share the views of their countries on specific topics from the responses to the global online survey.

For future Summits, delegates voted to support the current format: a WA-Summit every two years, with two days face to face and one day of online discussions beforehand.

Next Time

Make sure that you are part of the conversation at the 14th World Administrators Summit, to be held in October 2026 in Berlin, Germany, hosted by International Management Assistants (IMA) Germany before their annual conference. Join as a delegate so that you can represent your country and bring the voices of your peers to the table. You can make a difference to the future of our amazing profession.

HELEN MONUMENT inspires and encourages Assistants to be the best they can be by sharing 40 years of experience as a management support professional. Her career has taken her from Secretary to Office Manager and Business Support Team Leader, so she ... (Read More)

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