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.
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 Crusoe, indirectly gave birth to the term girl Friday. In the book, Crusoe 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 Crusoe’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.