Yesterday morning, browsing /r/accounting as I often do before our weekly conference call in which I pull ideas for the week’s content out of my ass, I came across a fresh post about an EY training seminar that supposedly implied women have “pancake brains” and need to be told not to flash the goods in order to get ahead. I immediately Slacked my esteemed colleague Bramwell with an enthusiastic “have you seen this??” He had not.
In the day since Huffington Post published its hit piece, the Interwebs have been atwitter over the article because who wouldn’t be outraged to hear that a Big 4 accounting firm already known for its long-standing and seemingly constant sexual harassment issues was offering training directed at women suggesting that if they want to get ahead, they shouldn’t be shrill?
When women speak, they shouldn’t be shrill. Clothing must flatter, but short skirts are a no-no. After all, “sexuality scrambles the mind.” Women should look healthy and fit, with a “good haircut” and “manicured nails.”
These were just a few pieces of advice that around 30 female executives at Ernst & Young received at a training held in the accounting giant’s gleaming new office in Hoboken, New Jersey, in June 2018.
The 55-page presentation, used during the day-and-a-half seminar on leadership and empowerment, was given to HuffPost by an attendee who was appalled by its contents. Full of out-of-touch advice, the presentation focused on how women need to fix themselves to fit into a male-dominated workplace.
Look, I’m not going to turn this into a rant about gender equality or the lack thereof and how for all their talk about empowering women and minorities the firms are pretty full of shit considering how old, white, and male leadership is. But this is kinda messed up.
As salacious as the HuffPo piece is, it’s not without its own issues. Namely the cherry-picking of certain passages and the fact that despite saying they received the full 55-page presentation from a tipster, they didn’t publish said presentation in its entirety. Scribd that shit and let us judge for ourselves.
When reached for comment by HP, EY basically waved off HuffPo’s insinuation that this was maybe a little sexist and added that hey, the ladies asked for it.
After HuffPost inquired about the training in early October of this year, EY said that the course had been under review for months, that the June 2018 event was the last time that version of the training was held at the company and that the course “is no longer offered in its current form.” The company did not provide any more detail on the changes.
The training was just one of many that the firm offered to men and women, EY told HuffPost. PPP was created by someone outside the company, “an external vendor,” EY said, and offered because some women requested it.
The company said it disagrees with the way the content of the seminar is characterized in this story. “Any isolated aspects are taken wholly out of context,” EY said in a statement. The company said it reviewed the evaluations of women who participated in the program, and found they rated it highly. EY’s communications team also shared quotes from two current employees, who praised the training.
“Professionally, PPP was the most impactful leadership program that I have had the opportunity to participate in and I have always been incredibly proud and humbled to have been a part of it,” EY senior executive Stacey Moore, who participated in the training four years ago, said in a statement provided by company. “I am forever grateful to the firm for the opportunity and the investment in our women.”
However, a day later EY reversed its position and admitted that yeah, OK, maybe the training was just a little bit sexist in a statement to The Hill:
“This voluntary program, which was delivered to a small group of EY professionals, does not reflect EY’s values or culture and should not have been offered to any of our women. To ensure this can never happen again, we are undertaking a comprehensive review of our processes and controls around program content as there is no question that elements of the program included offensive content that is inconsistent with our core beliefs,” the spokesperson continued.
“The women of EY thrive because of the strength of their character, the authenticity they display and their capabilities. We value and celebrate the differences of our people and do not advocate conformity among our people. We are incredibly proud of our women and our longstanding commitment to diversity, inclusion and creating a culture of belonging for all,” the representative added.
I’m just gonna leave this scoresheet from the training here and leave it to y’all to draw your own conclusions.