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US training seminar tells executive women their brains are small and pancake-like

Madeline Hislop /

Women’s brains absorb information like pancakes soak up syrup, so it’s hard for them to focus.

This is what 30 female executives at Ernst & Young America were told during a training seminar in June 2018, according to a new report from HuffPost.

The multinational accounting firm held a day-and-a-half long ‘leadership and empowerment’ seminar that described the differences between men’s and women’s brains, as well as telling the female attendees how to dress at work.

Jane, a former executive director who attended the seminar, told HuffPost that it was a “women-bashing event”, focusing on how women need to alter their behaviour to fit into a male-dominated workplace.

The attendees were told to have a “good haircut, manicured nails, well-cut attire that compliments your body type”. Although they were also advised not to take this too far. “Don’t flaunt your body — sexuality scrambles the mind (for men and women).”

According to Jane, those at the seminar were advised that women’s brains are 6-11% smaller than men’s brains. And while women’s brains are like pancakes, unable to focus, men’s brains are more like waffles. They’re better able to focus because the information collects in each little waffle square.

HuffPost published notes Jane took down at the event, which include advice like: “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.”

Images of a “Masculine/Feminine Score Sheet” have also been published. Before attendees arrived at the seminar, they were asked to rate their adherence to stereotypical masculine and feminine characteristics, both while working and outside the office.

Words like “Ambitious”, “Analytical”, “Assertive”, “Self-Reliant”, “Has Leadership Abilities” and “Strong Personality” were listed as masculine traits. “Yielding”, “Childlike”, “Soft-Spoken”, “Tender”, “Gentle” and “Loves Children” were listed under feminine traits. None of the feminine traits involved leadership qualities.

A few months before the seminar, at the height of the #MeToo movement in the US, Ernst & Young were making headlines.

They had settled a discrimination complaint filed by a partner at the firm, who said she was sexually assaulted by a male partner. The consulting firm only fired the man after she went public with the complaint.

There was no mention of this case during the seminar. As Emily Peck writes in the HuffPost: “The focus was on self-improvement. For women.”

In a statement to HuffPost EY said: “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% false.”

This article was first published on Women’s Agenda. Read the original article.

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Madeline Hislop

Madeline is a Women's Agenda contributor.

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