This paper reports the findings of a study on secretarial work in England, France and Germany, which aimed to discover whether secretarial work can justly be described as a female ghetto' occupation. Questionnaires were issued to secretaries working in matched management consultancy and publishing firms in the three countries; 185 questionnaires were received and 61 interviews were carried out with bosses, secretaries and personnel representatives. It was found that promotion out of secretarial work is extremely rare, which corroborates the ghetto' thesis. However, secretarial job content, especially in France and Germany, was found to be wide-ranging and varied, which runs counter to that thesis. Overall, conflicting evidence was found across the three countries, which suggests that women's work is not necessarily constructed in the same way in different countries, and points to the role played by national institutions in shaping patterns and experiences of women's employment.