Thursday, January 16, 2014

The End of the Clerk

Washington Post had an article on the vanishing clerk in government offices which was good.  Down to 4 percent of employees.

Two points:
  • back in the day, way back in the day, a "clerk" was a high ranking position. The early Patent Office for example had a chief and a clerk, if I remember correctly.  As government offices grew, we kept inserting positions between the top and the bottom.  
  • back in my day, the clerk position could be a stepping stone to advancement, though not always.  I remember a clerk in my first office, who was a spinster from Boston who'd come to DC for WWII and never advanced above that rank.  But I remember more clerks who showed intelligence and diligence and were able to transition out of the clerk to the technician and later the analyst positions.  In the days when many smart women didn't go to college, that was a well-established pathway to advancement.  And when the Feds started emphasizing EEO, we had various programs which enabled black to make a similar transition.  One downside of our current emphasis on meritocracy and college is we make the road to the top much more difficult for those who don't check all the educational checkboxes.  Then we complain about a lack of upward mobility.
I can't resist being chauvinistic enough to mention that some women clerks/secretaries advanced by marrying someone in the office.  These days what people have a fancy name (which I forget) which means college grads marry college grads, no more male boss marrying female secretary.  That's good on equality grounds, but it also limits mobility.

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