A Call for Better Training in the ‘Me Too’ Era
An article by the Huffington Post has detailed how 30 female executives at Ernst & Young participated in a training that emphasized stereotypes and how to act around men in the workplace.
The training session took place in June 2018 in Hoboken, NJ, and included a 55-page presentation that covered “tips” for women, like “sexuality scrambles the mind,” “women should look healthy and fit with a good haircut and manicured nails, and “women’s brains are smaller than men and absorb information like pancakes.”
The training was titled “Power-Presence-Purpose” (PPP) by Marsha Clark Associates, and it was one of many that businesses have been providing in the wake of the “Me Too” movement. However, while the concept of a women’s empowerment seminar is positive in theory, a few participants told Huffington Post that it only exacerbated the issue of women not being respected in the workplace. It was “full of out-of-touch advice – the presentation focused on how women need to fix themselves to fit into a male-dominated workplace.”
The presentation did not note that there are people who identify as non-binary or gender non-conforming. It also didn’t address how women may be treated differently based on race or sexual orientation. Rather, it focused on how women should change their behavior to accommodate men’s expectations in the workplace. For example, it advised women to sit at an angle and cross their legs while speaking to a man, so they don’t feel “threatened.” No word on whether other men are advised to do the same. The presentation also provided a “masculine/feminine score sheet,” which had the women rate their adherence to stereotypical masculine and feminine characteristics. “Masculine” traits included “ambitious,” “assertive,” and “has leadership abilities.” “Feminine” traits included “childlike,” “gullible,” and “yielding.”
Needless to say, this presentation did not go over well with both the participants and with the general public once the media reported on it. Comments from women of various ages and regions expressed disappointment that such outdated ideas would be presented to high-level women at a well-known accounting firm. There were calls for the availability of better leadership programs. Fortunately, there are indeed many other trainers who can provide an up-to-date, empowering leadership session for women and other marginalized groups. The focus should be on how women can break through stereotypes and navigate the workplace successfully, with the same opportunities that men have.
One of these programs is HRDQ’s Women and Leadership: Working Through Barriers and Biases. This program identifies the specific challenges imposed on women in the workplace and it provides an in-depth look at how women can combat these obstacles to maximize their strengths. Course participants will leave the session being able to understand the challenges that women face at work, build skills that enhance their development as a leader, develop and manage relationships to maximize leadership potential, recognize special issues women leaders face, and learn how to use their natural strengths to build and maintain a strong team.
For diverse teams, HRDQ’s Appreciating Diversity is a tool that explores the subtle ways that workplace limitations occur and how to combat them by fostering an environment that focuses on building respectful interactions. Participants will learn how to take proactive steps to showcase their unique and individual skills as well as exercise flexible thinking and seek personal growth.
The glass ceiling unfortunately still exists and it’s important for women to be able to develop their skills at work in order to break through it. Ernst & Young did not deliver on its goal of providing an empowering training session, but other organizations should learn from their massive mistake when choosing a program aimed at employee growth and success.