How men are keeping up with the Joanses
Jonathan Prynn, Consumer Business Editor
London is in the grip of a “reception revolution”, with men storming this once overwhelmingly female workplace.
The proportion of men sitting on the office front desks of the City and the West End has risen from virtually none five years ago to more than a fifth now, according to a new survey.
The trend is the flipside of the steady cracking of the “glass ceiling”, with ever more women making it into the once male preserve of the boardroom.
The increasing number of men in receptionist and other traditionally female roles, such as PAs, represents a dramatic breakdown of the Mad Men office image of submissive secretaries like Joan – played by Christina Hendricks – working for alpha male executives.
And the recession has helped remove the stigma from being a male receptionist, with banks and law firms giving the role far more responsibility – and pay to match.
Employers also say they no longer want the classic bored, gum-chewing “Dawn from The Office” figure representing their company when clients walk through the door.
The new generation of “super- receptionists” are now often recruited from leading airlines, such as British Airways, or London restaurants.
Simon Cooney, director of receptionist provider Office Concierge, said the old days of “say hello and sign people in” have long gone.
He said: “Now they are expected to get involved in roles such as client management, handling top-end visitors, meeting-room bookings and setting up teleconferencing.”
Typical pay has risen in recent years from a maximum of £20,000 to £25,000 or even £30,000, he said. Some City clients are now even demanding that receptionists be graduates, according to Susanna Tait, associate director of recruitment firm Tay Associates.
Bill Hutton, director of specialist receptionist job agency FOH Recruitment, said: “My clients are scrabbling over themselves for good guys. If you’ve got a team of 20 receptionists, all of them female, you’ve got to bring a couple of guys in. They bring something new to the team.”
However, the survey, commissioned by Office Concierge, reveals that there are still some perceived differences between the sexes.
The poll of 1,000 office workers found that the worst traits in female receptionists were that “they seem bored” (22 per cent), “they gossip” (21 per cent) and “they spend too much time texting or on social networks” (13 per cent).
Among men the worst traits are “they are rude and grumpy” (29 per cent) and “they get visitor’s/caller’s names wrong” (18 per cent).
‘You do get people making stereotype remarks’
Jackson Win-Boh started working as a receptionist at City insurance brokers Marsh & McLennan Companies last summer and loves it so much he plans a long-term career in the role.
The 26-year-old Australian is one of four men in a team of eight receptionists at the company’s Lower Thames Street headquarters and believes a balanced team works better together.
He said: “In the new era we live in everyone is branching out: we have female mechanics back in Australia.
“You do occasionally get people making stereotype observations. There are some men who would prefer to be greeted and served by a female because that is what they’re used to.
“But I don’t think there’s any difference between us apart from appearance. We provide the same quality of service.
“We have to be well groomed and well presented, I wear a two-piece suit and a tie with a white shirt.
“We have to be able to smile and have good people skills. Sometimes people have a bad day and try to rub it off onto you but you have to be able to bounce back.”