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The History of the Virtual Assistant Industry.

The History of the VA Industry.

19th and 20th Century: VA Industry starts taking flight

The early 1800s — First school of secretarial services (only for men) founded by Isaac Pitman

Sir Isaac Pitman invented the shorthand method, the initiation of the secretarial services industry.

  • The VA industry was primarily born out of secretarial services.

In the 1800’s Sir Isaac Pitman, invented Pitman shorthand and founded the first school for secretarial services. The school only admitted men, as women were not allowed in workplaces

It was technology that eventually paved the path for women’s entry into secretarial services – with the invention of the typewriter.

In the late 1880s, women occupied an unprecedented number of office jobs and worked as secretaries for companies and professionals on a “one boss, one secretary” arrangement.

1942 — National Secretaries Association established

In the early 1940s, Secretarial pools were introduced, and the US established the National Secretaries Association in 1942 in order to promote professionalism.

Today it is called the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), a nonprofit professional network.

Later on, this professionalization happened with the development of the Certified Professional Secretaries (CPS) Examination. This exam tests knowledge, skills, and aptitude in three areas  – office technology, office systems administration, and office management.

In1870s women were favored too because they could spell and type better, which would raise the tone of the office.

There was a huge shift in business culture during the 1870s when the writing machine was invented and women first began taking on clerical roles in a predominantly male environment.

Women didn’t need a full college education – they could simply receive professional training from secretarial schools.

Women were also taken into consideration more than men because they were just getting married and leaving without requiring pensions. 

Lots of women went on to occupy more office jobs in the late 1880s and performed secretarial work for companies on a “one boss, one secretary” arrangement, then men from these job roles completely disappeared

Below the given photo is a perfect example of how women get the opportunity to work as a secretary, using the typewriter in the late 188Os, and handling the admin and secretarial works.

The History of the Virtual Assistant Industry
A female typist operates a Sholes and Glidden typewriter, as depicted in an 1872 Scientific American article.

1985 — Ms. Linda Anderson leads an organization of Home Secretaries serving across the US

During the 1980s, administrative assistance started being remote.

Historian Anna Davin records that when the British civil service took over operating telegraph and postal offices in the 1870s, female clerks were sought for their typing speed and dexterity, with the official.

It is said that time – the wages ‘which will draw male operators from but an inferior class of the community, will draw female operators from a superior class.

This evolution marked the birth of the virtual industry when Thomas Lenard, a life coach, and Anastasia Stacy Brice ( his VA), uttered the term “virtual assistance” in 1996.

By the 19th century, technology had refashioned to such an extent that it gave birth to the Internet in 1994, a medium that made business transactions possible even sitting thousands of miles away. 

This phrase soon came to define what Stacy did for a living then, as a full-time work-at-home secretary for her international client as well. 

Feb 1997 — first VA firm opened by Stacey Brice named AssistU.

Stacy became the living definition of this new job market by working as a full-time secretary from home for her international clients. 

She used the internet to provide services such as travel planning, personal assistance, administrative support, and so on.

She addressed herself as a ‘virtual assistant,’ and the term became so contagious that it eventually became the definition of an emerging and exciting profession.

In the 1990s the internet made the world smaller again and changed the way all people lived and worked, with the demise of the typing pool, a computer on everyone’s desk and at home, laptop computers, tablets, and mobile phones for working anytime anywhere and an increase in remote working.

1999 — International Virtual Assistants Association established

The more popular version recognizes Christine Durst, who wrote the book “The 2 Second Commute” as the founder of the virtual assistant industry in 1995. 

 Durst called the thriving profession a “revolutionary way of working from home” and encouraged professionals to maximize the Internet to pursue their life passions and authentic sense of independence while earning.

Durst was herself a work-from-home administrative manager for several global businesses.

 In 1999, she collaborated with Michael Haaren to establish International Virtual Assistants Association (IVSA). 

The IVSA is a professional organization of virtual assistants and all work from home professionals in 16 countries at present. 

The International Virtual Assistants Association was founded to professionalize and create standards and codes of responsibility for those who provide work from home administrative services.

The History of the Virtual Assistant Industry
Over the next 10 years, hiring managers expect nearly 40% of their workforce to be working remotely.

In the past few months, we all started working remotely, and if we see around the world, everyone is an experience a good amount of productivity while working from home. What about you, are you getting productive while working from home?

Around the world, home-based work was already part of the workforce set up particularly in

 China (85%), 

India (77%), 

France (72%), the

 United Kingdom (71%),

 and Brazil (61%). 

Eventually, new terminologies such as freelancer, telecommuter, remote worker, and home-based worker are created for appropriateness.

By 2014, 24% of Americans were already doing part-time online work.

This number figures to go up because of these factors:

  • Growing uncertainty and volatility in global business conditions;
  • Increasing demand for outsourced services in order to keep costs manageable
  • One can only wonder at how virtualization is professionalizing its ranks massively.
  • Globalization will soon diminish all the flat structures of organizations. 
  • The prospects for business outsourcing, however, will only continue to rise. There is no doubt why and how working from home will continue to flourish in upcoming times

It was estimated that by 2018, the virtual assistance industry will be worth $US5 Billion.

While the United States has led the way, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia are not far behind.

In 2019, the business process outsourcing industry’s global revenue than information technology outsourcing, generating 26 billion and 66.5 billion U.S. dollars respectively.


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John Smith
John Smith
9 months ago

Having a VA will surely help you achieve greater things.
Never heard about the history of virtual assistants.
Great Insights.

Bobby Hill
Bobby Hill
9 months ago

After reading this blog post, we can say, the Internet and hi-tech has changed the way we live and work tremendously.

James Dicksen
James Dicksen
9 months ago

The Virtual assistant industry had the history too, wow , loved reading this!!

Anita Williams
Anita Williams
10 months ago

Great Post

Pita Wester
Pita Wester
10 months ago

The early 1800s — First school of secretarial services, god, we have come so far.

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