A T THE RISK of being ac cused of generalising, I'll stick my neck out and describe the feminine attitude to careers as "filling in time until I get married". This attitude is probably fair enough at a time when the chances of a girl not getting married are becoming more and more rare, but it must make the suffragettes turn in their graves.
Equally rare, however, is the girl who gives up her job on marriage. Her work may be dull, but for most young women nothing could be duller than sitting around at home with nothing to do but the housework and no one to talk to but the shop assistants.
You would think, therefore, that a girl would try for an interesting post, for the odds are that she'll carry on working until she has a baby and probably try to go back when the children are off her hands. But it's not so at all.
Many girls who take on any old job to "fill in the time" are lumbered with any old job later on. Some girls won't bother to acquire a qualification of any sort, ". . because I'll get married and what will be the use?" As if marriage were the safety net and the solution to all problems, when it's only the beginning. But that's another story.
Today the number of jobs open to girls is vast. Given She ambition, a certain amount of intelligence and the will to overcome still existing prejudice, a girl can do almost any job from a lawyer, doctor or industrialist to a professional pilot.
Not so long ago a woman hotel manager was almost unheard of. Today the chances of high executive positions in the hotel industry are increasing rapidl y.
THE OLD PREJUDICES REMAIN, of course, but as one woman chairman of a steel company said to me: "A brilliant man will always accept a woman. Objections to women in senior posts are usually due to a basic insecurity and fear of competition."
In the circumstances, then, one would expect very many girls to take advantage of the careers open to them. In fact graduates tend to end up teach.
ing ; at least half of all women arts graduates do this.
Far be it from me to suggest that they shouldn't, especially. at a time when schools are crying out for teachers. But I sometimes wonder whether they go into teaching because they can't think of anything else to do—an attitude that doesn't make for good teaching.
At the other end of the scale are the much abused shorthand-typists cum secretaries cum personalassistants, their title depending on their supposed status. How many times have you heard a girl say: "Oh! I couldn't possibly end up in an office", or, "Who would want to do a typing course?"
Then there is the ubiquitous girl at the party who, when asked what she does, replies deprecatingly that she is just a secretary.
It is true that they are not exactly few and far between. One-third of all girl schoolleavers take a secretarial course. But it is not so often realised, especially by the girls themselves, that the vast majority of women holding executive posts started as secretaries. It would surely be worth more girls obtaining this relatively easy qualification for the avenues it can open to more interesting jobs.
BUT HOW DOES A GIRL get out of the shorthand-typing rut? According to Margery Hurst, head of a world-wide secretarial agency — she was its first shorthand-typist — a girl must be very good at both shorthand and typing. Not having to worry about her technical skills she can then concentrate on learning everything about the office and the other facets of her job.
It is probably better, too, to go into industry. I met a director of a company the other day who started as the boss's secretary. The more glamorous-sounding jobs such as those in advertising, fashion firms or beauty houses are less attractive than they sound.
The competition is pretty fierce, for a start, and there are certainly fewer eligible men in the fashion world than in, say, a chemicals company. But this is where we came in. Except to point out that the girl who is keen and knowledgeable about her job tends to be more interesting than the girl whose main object of interest is herself.