An Ernst & Young seminar reportedly suggested women have small brains, and said they should avoid speaking to men face-to-face

An Ernst & Young seminar reportedly suggested women have small brains, and said they should avoid speaking to men face-to-face

Ernst Young Woman

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton


Ernst & Young, the major accounting firm previously embroiled in sexual harassment suits, reportedly advised women to look "fit" and not to address men face-to-face.

Huffington Post reporter Emily Peck wrote that she obtained a 55-page EY presentation on leadership rife with negative stereotypes that women are not "ambitious," shouldn't challenge their male colleagues, and must not dress provocatively.

Read more: Lower pay, more harassment: How work in America has failed women of color

EY told Huffington Post it no longer uses the version of the presentation mentioned in the story, and clarified the training was hosted by an "external vendor."


Per Peck, some of the more bizarre practices of the EY Power-Presence-Purpose training (as it was called) included:

  • Women were encouraged to "signal fitness and wellness" by getting manicures and wearing flattering clothing - yet were told not to "flaunt their body"
  • Attendees had to rate how "masculine" or "feminine" they were before the training. Masculine adjectives included "ambitious" and "has leadership abilities"; feminine adjectives included "shy" and "childlike"
  • Women were told to sit cross-legged and not to make face-to-face contact with men at work
  • The presenter claimed women had smaller brains than men, a former EY executive director who wished to remain anonymous told Huffington Post. She added the presentation said women absorb information "like pancakes" making it hard for them to focus.

The presentation also had a breakdown of the difference between men and women's speaking styles, where it said women ramble and "miss the point" when they communicate, and "think men hog air time." Studies show men interrupt women and dominate workplace conversations: a 2014 study found women interrupted men just once during three-minute conversations, while men averaged 2.6 interruptions of women during those three minutes.

Business Insider reached out to EY for additional comment.

The training reportedly occurred in June 2018, at the height of the #MeToo movement where women across the country shared stories of sexual harassment at work. EY itself faced two sexual harassment complaints, while rival accounting firm Deloitte fired 20 partners for misconduct.

Promoting gender stereotypes at work may also result in excluding non-conforming employees. Half of LGBTQ employees have experienced verbal discrimination at work, and queer people have high rates of workplace sexual harassment.


Read the full Huffington Post story on EY's Power-Presence-Purpose presentation here »