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‘Incredibly toxic’: Women at EY allegedly told to dress to their figure, cross their legs

Ernst & Young has received criticism over 'toxic' leadership lessons. Images: Getty, Twitter

Major accounting firm Ernst & Young has been blasted as “incredibly toxic” following reports that women were told to come to work with a “good haircut” and be careful in how they talk to men in the office.

According to a 55-page presentation received by the Huffington Post, 30 female executives at EY in the USA were told to closely monitor their appearance and mannerisms at work in order to succeed in a male-dominated environment.

In the June 2018 training, women were reportedly told that their brains absorb information “like pancakes soak up syrup”, which meant they find it more difficult to focus compared to men’s “waffle” brains, which collect information “in each little waffle square”.

Women were also told to dress for their figure, but to avoid showing skin: “sexuality scrambles the mind (for men and women).”

The presentation also claimed that women “speak briefly… often ramble and miss the point” and need to learn to write their thoughts down, and argued that women phrase their thoughts as questions and wait for their turn to contribute in meetings, rather than interrupt.

Before attending the presentation, women were also asked to fill in a personality trait score card, with more “feminine” traits including “childlike”, “gullible”, “yielding”, “soft-spoken”, “loyal” and “does not use harsh language”.

“Masculine” traits included “acts as a leader”, “assertive”, “athletic”, “willing to take risks” and “competitive”.

According to a source who attended the presentation, women were also told to avoid confronting men in meetings as they see it as threatening, and to sit at an angle and cross their legs when having a conversation.

Twitter reacts

EY told the Huffington Post that it has a “long-standing commitment to women”, and is dedicated to creating an “environment of inclusivity and belonging at EY”. It said anything that suggests the opposite is “100 per cent false”.

But according to Twitter, EY is teaching “incredibly toxic” lessons.

“Let me say this briefly and succinctly EY, because I know how much you hate when we women "ramble and miss the point". You are a disgrace and I am embarrassed to have worked for you,” a former employee said.

“God could #ErnstAndYoung be any dumber with their training?” added another.

"Women’s brains absorb information like pancakes soak up syrup so it’s hard for them to focus...Men’s brains are more like waffles. They’re better able to focus because the information collects in each little waffle square." Garbage science from #ernstandyoung,” another person said.

“Throw the whole company away. If Ernst and Young’s thinking regarding women in the workplace is stuck in the 70’s their services probably are too,” added another.

Ernst and Young has US$36.4 billion in revenue and 270,000 employees.

Other companies in hot water

International bank HSBC suffered heavy criticism after a Valentine’s Day special deal for staff in Hong Kong offered men discounted laptops and women vacuum cleaners.

The company had also paid its female staff in Britain 59 per cent less than their male colleagues in 2017, the worst pay gap in the UK big firms.

“HSBC is committed to gender diversity in the workplace,” HSBC said.

“We recognise that there is more work to do to address our gender balance at senior levels.”

And in August, an airline boss was reportedly sacked after allegedly fat-shaming another carrier’s cabin crew who were staffing her flight.

The director of LOT Polish Airlines allegedly took photos of workers before posting them on Facebook and criticising their teeth and weight.

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