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What Is a Girl Friday?

On a business administration level, the term refers to a woman who juggles a host of business matters.
A "girl Friday" is a slang term for an administrative assistant who handles many tasks.
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  • Written By: A.M. Boyle
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 30 July 2014
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The term girl Friday is generally used to indicate a female administrative assistant who handles many organizational tasks. It can also be used to denote a woman who is a personal assistant and takes care of another individual’s private matters. In a less common context, it can refer to a female companion who plays a general supportive role, not necessarily performing tasks but acting as a person’s encourager and devotee.

On a business administration level, the term refers to a woman who juggles a host of business matters and typically does so for one person in particular. Generally, a woman who fits this role is well organized and handles a multitude of business and administrative matters, keeping a particular individual organized and on task. For example, a lawyer may claim that a female legal assistant is his or her girl Friday in that the legal assistant is crucial in managing the lawyer's caseload, setting appointments, and generally keeping that particular attorney organized and on task.

A girl Friday can also refer to a woman who manages personal matters for an individual. This type might otherwise be considered a personal assistant. She would generally handle a wide variety of every-day responsibilities, such as shopping, running errands, organizing dinner, and acting as a chauffeur.

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In other instances, a woman who acts as a personal encourager or coach is sometimes referred to as a girl Friday. This role differs from both the administrative or personal assistant roles in that the individual doesn’t necessarily perform specific business or personal tasks. Rather, when used in this context, it refers to someone who is more of a personal cheerleader and devoted friend, in other words, the female version of a “wing man.” Often, but not always, this particular role coincides with either the business administrator or, more commonly, the personal assistant role as the individual whom the girl Friday assists tends to become very dependent upon her.

Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Carusoe, indirectly gave birth to the term girl Friday. In the book, Carusoe rescues a native from cannibals and refers to him as “man Friday” because of the day of the week the rescue took place. Man Friday becomes Carusoe’s loyal friend and assistant. In this way, the book gave rise to the term man Friday, which refers to a loyal and close male assistant.

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Discuss this Article

anon926987
Post 10

Many of the definitions here of a Girl Friday sound more like what I'd call an Executive Assistant. This was a very high post for a woman in the day and required vast talents spanning from the business side through the personal.

MissMuffet
Post 9

@Kat919 - I agree with you that the term is a bit annoying, especially in these politically correct days.

If it was coined as the female version of Crusoe's 'man Friday', we should use 'woman'. (Or call the characher 'boy Friday'!

I like studying languages and was shocked to read that until very recently a female admin worker in Japan was called an 'office flower'. I suppose that reflected their primary role of making tea and decorating the place with their beauty.

Words are pretty powerful, and it's good to spend time thinking about how they can influence the way we perceive things.

Kat919
Post 8

Isn't the term "my girl Friday" awfully offensive? An administrative assistant is a grown person who might be a man or a woman, not a "girl." Referring to an administrative professional as a "girl" is demeaning!

I know people don't mean any harm by it. I used to work as a temp and I joked that my job title was "girl," because people would always ask, "What happened to the other girl?" (The one who had quit/was on maternity leave/etc.) But I wish they would choose their words more carefully. Is it that hard to ask about the "last receptionist" instead of "the other girl"?

orangey03
Post 7

@Oceana - A great girl Friday is hard to find. Hold onto yours. I am still in the process of finding the right one.

I have a lot of paperwork and appointments that go through my office, and everyone I’ve hired so far to take charge of them hasn’t been able to handle the pace. Once, I even tried hiring two people to share the load. It just seems that they didn’t want to do it.

I have a girl coming in next week to try out, and I have high hopes that she will succeed. Her references gave glowing recommendations about her efficiency and ability to multi-task, which is crucial for this position.

Oceana
Post 6

I have an internet girl Friday. I send her orders through email and instant messaging. This works best for me, because my life is so hectic that taking the time out to call her would strap me for time.

She is great about responding quickly. She always gets things done to the best of her abilities, and because of that, I am always polite to her and pay her well.

Often, I have to be out of the office for meetings. I just email her from the cab or the lobby, and I know that she will take care of whatever I need. She has the most organized mind and demeanor I have ever seen.

cloudel
Post 5

@kylee07drg - I know what you mean. I have a friend who works as a girl Friday, and she is always stressed out about her job. However, I work as one, too, but my job brings me joy.

My employer is handicapped. She cannot run errands herself, so that is my job. She is not bitter about her situation at all. Rather, she is grateful for my help. She pays me very well, and it just goes to show that the quality of this position is determined by the personality of the employer.

I occasionally answer the phone for her and do paperwork when she is too busy to do it herself, but mostly I am a go-getter. By that I mean I go get her groceries, her laundry, and her son from school.

kylee07drg
Post 4

Working as a girl Friday can be either extremely stressful or highly rewarding, depending on your employer. I worked for a high-strung lady, and she made me very nervous. I stayed on edge all the time just to keep up with her demands.

I felt like I had to constantly be alert and repeat her commands to myself so that I didn’t forget one. If I did forget to do something, she chewed me out and called me worthless. I served as both a personal assistant and an office manager, and it was just too much.

I only kept that job until I found another one working for a much nicer person. My new job description was administrative assistant, and I no longer had to pick up dry cleaning or walk a dog for my boss.

subway11
Post 3

@Icecream17 - I imagine that a girl Friday is a trusted confidant that allows the executive the opportunity to focus on big picture of his business. When you have a girl Friday that does a great job and is reliable you really feel blessed because they do handle a lot of details and are often trusted with confidential information as a result of their business relationship.

They are really like a right arm to the executive and are hard to replace.

icecream17
Post 2

I agree. I didn’t know there was such an expanded girl Friday definition. I think that a girl Friday is really important because they handle so many details that are often critical. For example, at my husband’s office his girl Friday had to do his travel plans and not only does she have to adhere to his travel schedule, but she also has to get the best rates possible.

On one trip to Shanghai, my husband was able to get a round trip ticket for only $7,000 which was for a business class ticket. She saved the company a lot of money which is something that she always tries to do even when planning company functions.

anon186394
Post 1

Your extended definition is spot on!

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