According to the New York legal firm Clifford Chance, female lawyers and staffers need to tone down their feminine “quirks.” In a memo addressed only to female employees, the firm instructed women on everything from speech patterns to proper attire. 

 

Much of the advice might be helpful to any young associate; for example, they advise “[projecting] power,” not using the word “like,” or “[dropping] your volume at the end of a sentence,” and not “[raising] your pitch at the end of a statement if it’s not a question.” The overwhelming message seems to be: don’t let them see you sweat. The choice to send this memo only to women implies that women are insecure, bumbling goody-goodies who don’t know how to be authoritative like their male colleagues. How could someone think this is acceptable?

 

As if that’s not bad enough, many passages characterize women as little girls: “Pretend you’re in moot court, not the high school cafeteria” and “don’t giggle” are a few suggestions. Instructions like “Don’t talk taller than you are, ‘Fourscore...’” are ludicrous. When the memo avoids infantilizing women lawyers, it veers into a realm of inappropriateness that verges on slut-shaming. Written under “What Not to Wear” are the following lines: “Wear a suit, not your party outfit [...] No one heard Hilary the day she showed cleavage [...] If wearing a skirt, make sure audience can’t see up it when siting on the dias.”

 

I mean, come onnn

 

Also concerning is the firm’s subtle association of manly traits with professionalism. Women are advised to wear heals and not rock back on them, to lower the podium to make themselves appear taller. With regards to their hands, women should “watch out for the urinal position” (whatever that means). Women should also curb their high voices: “Say ‘uh-huh’ and match that pitch to see how low you can go [...] Your voice is higher than you hear.” Wait a minute, so a woman of average height with an average female voice should try to make herself seem... more like a man? Because it sure reads that way. 

 

Fortunately, the female employees of the firm are fighting back, drawing attention to the disturbingly sexist memo. “[F]emale associates are very upset by not only the elementary nature of the tips themselves, but the suggestion that these would only apply to women. We have never been a very female friendly firm, but this is beyond the pale,” one tells the press. Let’s hope the firm, and all workplaces, see this hideous memo and the response it’s garnered as a wake-up call. 

 

Thanks to New York Post

Images via New York Post, Above the Law

Tagged in: women, sexual harassment, sexism in the workplace, sexism, professionalism, legal, lawyers, law firm, clifford chance   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.


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