133. Memorandum From the Special Assistant for Women’s Affairs of the Department of State (Rogers) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Management (Brown)1


  • Office Administration for 1974–84

The supply of willing, skilled female office workers on which 20th century bureaucracies are predicated is about to run out. Shirley Norlem, an expert on the secretarial occupation, outlines the problem realistically in the attached memo. (Tab A).2

Ms. Norlem’s findings should not surprise anyone who has seen the secretary of the 40’s with the college degree and a year at Katherine Gibbs replaced by high school graduates with imperfect shorthand and growing discontent at unequal career training and advancement opportunities. What the 70’s has added is the accelerating women’s movement which provides increasingly attractive alternatives to office work.

State, which has thus far avoided some of the worst problems by reliance on the Foreign Service secretary, is now feeling the pinch as [Page 460] these able women join with their civil service colleagues in challenging permanent consignment to second rate status.

As Ms. Norlem points out office administration and clerical work in the future will turn on competitive career rewards and new modes of office operation.

I urge that—as was the case with Diplomacy for the 70s3—you establish under your direct sponsorship task forces concerned with (a) career and retention incentives, status, classification, training, education, and recruitment requirements for office employees and (b) organization of office work, equipment, space layout alternatives and other operational factors.


That you sign the attached directive (Tab B)4 establishing task forces to develop a comprehensive program for meeting State’s requirements for office administration for the coming decade.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Miscellaneous Management and Management Operations Files, 1969–1976: Lot 82 D 210, BALPA–OPRED Under Secretary Com. on Overseas Cuts ’71–’73. No classification marking.
  2. Dated April 25, attached but not printed.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. II, Organization and Management of U.S. Foreign Policy, 1969–1972, Document 312.
  4. The April 29 draft directive addressed to Rogers is attached but not printed.
  5. There is no indication of approval or disapproval of the recommendation. However, a Secretarial Task Force was established by Brown on July 23 and charged with examining the role and future prospects of secretaries in the Department and Foreign Service. The Task Force submitted its final report on January 27, 1975. Among its recommendations, the Task Force suggested improvements to the recruitment, training, and career mobility of Department secretaries, as well as changes to prevailing “paternalistic” social attitudes by mandating more rigorous enforcement of anti-discrimination regulations and establishing formal guidelines for office management and for all supervisor/secretary relationships. The text of the report was published as a special supplement to the Department of State Newsletter, February 1975.