Ernst & Young Workshop For Female Employees In NJ Sparks Outrage

HOBOKEN, NJ — EY, previously known as Ernst & Young, is one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, a powerhouse that employs 260,000 people in more than 150 countries around the world. And according to a training seminar recently offered at the company’s Hoboken office, if you’re a woman, it’s probably better if you don’t show too much skin if you want to climb the corporate ladder.

While you’re at it, be “polished,” get a good haircut, keep your nails manicured and wear well-cut attire that complements your body type. And above all else, don’t flaunt your body, because “sexuality scrambles the mind.”

These were some of the recommendations in a workshop offered to about 30 female executives last year at the firm’s office on River Street in Hoboken, the Huffington Post reported. (Read the full article)

A former EY executive leaked information about the workshop — dubbed Power-Presence-Purpose — which she said was an effort to inspire change at her old workplace.

According to “Jane,” who requested to remain anonymous, attendees at the workshop were told that women’s brains absorb information like pancakes and soak up syrup, making it hard for them to focus. Men, on the other hand, have brains like waffles, which help them to keep the syrup separated in each square, she was told.

Other advice Jane got at the workshop reportedly included:

Don’t directly confront men in meetings, because men perceive this as threatening. (Women do not.) Meet before (or after) the meeting instead.If you’re having a conversation with a man, cross your legs and sit at an angle to him. Don’t talk to a man face-to-face. Men see that as threatening.Don’t be too aggressive or outspoken.

EY said the seminar had been “under review” for months before the June 2018 event, and it was the last time that specific version of the training was held at the company. But according to Jane, the message was clear: Stick to traditional ideas of what’s “feminine” or suffer professionally.

EY — which also has New Jersey offices in Iselin and Secaucus — has faced accusations of sexual harassment in the past.

Just months before the seminar in Hoboken, EY settled a lawsuit with Jessica Casucci, a former partner who accused a male co-worker of sexually assaulting her at a bar in 2015.

Last year, Karen Ward, a former partner at the New York office, sued EY, alleging her supervisor complimented her breasts and asked her to go to strip clubs with him. She also said she made hundreds of thousands of dollars less than male partners at the firm.

Ward said she was eventually fired after she complained to senior executives. Her lawyer told The New York Business Journal the company is led “almost entirely by men who foster and promote a ‘boys club’ culture.”

EY called her claims unfounded and baseless.

“She was separated from EY following the firm’s decision to shut down the small real estate investment banking advisory practice that she led for three years,” EY told The New York Business Journal. “Despite the firm’s full support, Ward failed to close a single transaction in the period she led the group, and it suffered multiple years of disappointing financial results.”

According to self-reported data from fiscal year 2018, the company’s upper executive ranks are mostly men. For example, only 20.4 percent of EY’s 11,870 partners and principals are women. Female employees made up just 12 percent of its 301 lead client service partners.

Overall, about 47.6 percent of the company’s 261,559 employees are women.

See related article: Ernst and Young Will Relocate To Hoboken’s Waterfront Corporate Center

‘PROUD OF OUR COMMITMENT TO WOMEN’

Patch has reached out to the EY media relations team seeking comment about the seminar. We will update this article with any reply we receive.

After the Huffington Post report came out, EY said the workshop — which was created by an outside vendor and offered at the request of female employees at the company — was being taken “wholly out of context.”

“We are proud of our long-standing commitment to women and deeply committed to creating and fostering an environment of inclusivity and belonging at EY, anything that suggests the contrary is 100 percent false,” the firm said in its statement.

EY later told The Hill that the Power-Presence-Purpose program has since been canceled at the company.

“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,” a spokesperson said.

In the past, the company has been involved in efforts such as a collaboration with Tribal Planet to help girls 13-18 years of age pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

In fiscal year 2019, EY was named one of the “World’s Best Workplaces” for the fourth consecutive year by Great Place To Work and Fortune, and was named the No. 1 professional services employer for the third consecutive year by Universum.

In July, the company announced that 733 people around the globe — 33 percent of whom were women — were promoted to partner.

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‘EPIC FAIL, ERNST & YOUNG’

After the Huffington Post article was released, a flood of negative comments hit the internet. Many people, including actor Mira Sorvino, blasted EY for hosting the workshop, calling it sexist and outdated.

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