This morning, the President of my company popped his head into my office and asked, “Do you type?” When I responded affirmatively, he handed me a confidential form that needed typing. Taking the form, I walked to the empty cubicle that housed our old typewriter, sat down, aligned the form, and began to type. As I was typing, I became overcome with a sensation of deja vu.
When I was in high school I took several secretarial classes; Typing I, Typing II and Shorthand I. I'm not sure why I took these classes, I don't recall anyone telling me that I had to take them, asking me if I wanted to take them or even if I liked them. They were the elective classes girls in my high school enrolled in. I abhorred typing. I don’t recall my typing speed ever reaching much higher than 50 wpm. It was not unusual for me to turn in my assignment with a hole or two in the paper from attempting to correct my mistakes with a typing eraser. I found the entire typing class experience to be unenjoyable and stressful. Shorthand was worse. I dropped that class after one semester. It is hard to believe I was on a career track to do this every day for the rest of my life.
Then came career day; our guidance counselor stood in front of the classroom jotting on the chalkboard the future plans of myself and my classmates. We came up with four items. Here they are listed in order:
1. Get married
2. Get a job
3. Get a vocational degree (secretary or beautician for the girls, welder for the boys)
4. Get a college degree (engineer for the boys, teacher for the girls)
Luckily for me; shortly afterwards, I had a conversation with a kind neighbor concerning my lack of enthusiasm for a future career in typing. She talked me into attending a four year college and getting a B.S. degree. This same neighbor would eventually become the guidance counselor at my old high school.
After I graduated from college, with my new B.S. degree in hand, I went off to the employment agencies to find a job. At each agency, the first question the interviewer would ask me was, “Do you type?” which was followed by a typing test. Amazingly, I passed one of those tests, just squeaking by with 42 wpm. That led to a series of temp jobs, most of which involved typing letters and forms. Eventually, I would type an invoice or two, allowing me to add a new skill; Accounts Receivable, to my resume. Thus my accounting career had begun and the rest is history.
The following quote by James Burke of Fortune Magazine is appropriate: The typewriter also freed women from the drudgery of the kitchen to become involved in the drudgery of office work. And more important, it conferred on women the social power denied them by men and provided the dynamic to push for political emancipation.