While the #MeToo movement has catapulted women’s rights and their treatment in the workplace to the forefront of public discourse and finally sparked a long-overdue national conversation about the misogynistic discrimination and objectification hardwired into our society, a recent “leadership and empowerment” seminar for a major accounting firm has made it clear how much work is left to do.
A HuffPost investigation revealed that at the height of the #MeToo campaign in 2018, women executives at Ernst & Young were told that they should be well-dressed, manicured, but not to “flaunt their bodies” because “sexuality scrambles the mind.”
Emily Peck reports that one woman recalled being told “that if you want men to focus on the substance of what you’re talking about, ‘don’t show skin.’ If you do, men are less likely to focus ‘because of sex,’… the advice made her feel like a piece of meat.’”
An outside consultant was hired to teach women how to “grow their networks, negotiate, and build stronger performing-teams” but their list of “Invisible Rules” told women that they “often ramble and miss the point” in meetings, unlike men, who will “speak at length ― because he really believes in his idea.”
Women were given a “score sheet” of supposedly masculine and feminine traits and were asked to rate themselves based on their “at work” and “not at work” behavior. The traits were a laundry list of sexist stereotypes with a clear implication — that deviating from their expected gender roles would impede their ability to succeed in the workplace.
Women were reportedly coached by the training to not “directly confront men in meetings” and to not speak to men “face to face” in order to not appear too threatening. “You have to offer your thoughts in a benign way…You have to be the perfect Stepford wife” said former employee, “Jane,” who shared her recollections with HuffPost.
That wasn’t even the most offensive part of the “Power-Presence-Purpose ” seminar. That dubious honor reserved for the part of the presentation that gave bizarre sexual phrenological explanations for how women were physically inferior to men:
“Attendees were even told that women’s brains are 6% to 11% smaller than men’s, Jane said. She wasn’t sure why they were told this, nor is it clear from the presentation. Women’s brains absorb information like pancakes soak up syrup so it’s hard for them to focus, the attendees were told. Men’s brains are more like waffles. They’re better able to focus because the information collects in each little waffle square.”
If this kind of shameless 1950s pseudoscience and flagrant misogyny is being drilled into the 270,000 employees of a $36.4 billion accounting company in the year 2018, it’s clear that despite all the bluster and pearl-clutching over whether or not #MeToo has gone too far, it hasn’t gone nearly far enough.