Inge-Lise Johansson is the National Chairman of European Management Assistants (EUMA) Denmark. She studied at the Copenhagen Business School and presently works as an Executive Secretary at Finansrådet.
Maria João Borges (MJB): In Portugal, a higher education degree in this area has been offered since 1962. However it seems that less and less people choose this career as a 1st option, even though there are lots of employment opportunities. Is there a similar trend in Denmark?
Inge-Lise Johansson (ILJ): No. To explain this correctly I have to inform you that we do not have the same educations here in Denmark. Many secretaries in Denmark have been a pupil in a company for about 3 years before just to become a secretary. But many companies do not use secretaries anymore. The work that many secretaries did before has been taken over by other employees in a company. But PAs/MAs exist in almost every company. A PA/MA normally keeps her job for many years.
MJB: Initially a profession undertaken only by men, positions are now mostly filled by women. Can you estimate a distribution between men and women in Denmark?
ILJ: No, but in Denmark all men and women are working and many women now take over positions which normally men have hold before – also in higher positions.
MJB: Is this a well rated profession in terms of the employment outlook for the next, say, 10 years?
MJB: Do recruiters and employers look for specific skills? Do they look for technical training or base their choice mostly in soft skills?
ILJ: In Denmark many PAs/MAs have an education as correspondents, or another higher education.
MJB: Do these professionals have to have a specific license or to be part of a trade union in Denmark?
ILJ: No, they do not have to have a license - they just have to have excellent examinations papers. They only have to be a member of a trade union if the company has an agreement with a trade union that all their employees have to be a member.
MJB: In Portugal, as in some other countries, there is a wide range of names for this profession, which often do not translate into levels of responsibility or autonomy. What is the situation in Denmark?
ILJ: That is the same but we often use Personal Assistants, Management Assistants and Executive Secretaries.
MJB: In some countries there is a (somewhat) vigorous debate about the name secretary vs assistant. Is that the case in Denmark? Why?
ILJ: No, I have not heard about it. The name secretary comes from the word secret, and that is why we always use secretary when a person is there for a leader/boss. You have to be able to trust your secretary and that the secretary is loyal to his/her leader/boss.
MJB: How is the virtual dimension of the profession evolving in Denmark? Do companies look for virtual assistants?
ILJ: Yes, I know that it exists. But it is often inside the health sector and the public sector, where you just have to have the help to transcript reports and other working documents which do not require the daily interaction with a secretary.
Maria João Borges
Docente das UC de Práticas de Secretariado e Assessoria