I have been reeling recently with the latest, almost comical, memo that was sent to female Clifford Chance associates at the end of last month entitled “Presentation Tips for Women.” While some of the advice could be useful to all associates (rehearse, prep your opening, etc.), the majority of these tips are just offensive, particularly as the memo only went to women. (don’t giggle, don’t show cleavage, don’t squirm, practice big words, and the list goes on.) Above the Law rips the memo to shreds here, listing some of the most ridiculous tips along with their commentary:
“Like” You’ve got to Lose “Um” and “Uh,” “You Know,” “OK,” and “Like.”
– Um, Clifford Chance, do you think that women associates are like, uh, valley girls?
Think Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe.
– Because the goal in Biglaw is to sound like an older woman dripping with sex, not a younger one.
Don’t giggle; Don’t squirm; Don’t tilt your head.
– Don’t act like a teenager. Don’t act like a four-year-old. Don’t act like a confused dog. Got it.
Practice hard words.
– Wrap your tiny female brains around this one (or consult with George W. Bush if you’re having difficulties).
Wear a suit, not your party outfit.
– In case you’ve forgotten, there’s no such thing as work/life balance. Their suits are their party outfits.
No one heard Hillary the day she showed cleavage.
– Similarly, no one heard Bill the day he waved his dick around.
We reached out to Clifford Chance for comment on this debacle, and received this statement from the firm:
The original presentation and associated tips represented a personal perspective, shared with a group of colleagues, some just starting out in their careers. The more than 150 points are based on what this individual has found helpful as a public speaker in a broad range of business environments. While much of what is covered is common sense, we believe that it is important that women as well as men are given access to a range of different viewpoints and approaches; there is no Clifford Chance template on how people should present. The offense caused by a small percentage of the suggestions in the tip sheet was entirely unintentional.
We’re sure that the women attorneys at Clifford Chance feel much better now that they know the inadvertent sexism present in this memo wasn’t intentional.
At the same time, TIme Magazine just featured an article called The Last Politicians about the women of the Senate. Time categorized them as the “only adults left in Washington.” Clearly positive and flattering, the article highlighted how women get things done, using so many of the dispute resolution techniques we would recognize. Of course, the article notes that there is still a long way to go for equality. For example, 25 states have yet to ever elect a woman as Senator.
The New York Times was on the same page last month as well, with a cover story in its Sunday business section on women and leadership, interviewing four women about how they manage the work/life balance and succeed. As I have written before on politics, and on women lawyering, that balance between likeability and competence remains a difficult one to manage.
But all is not lost. At least Hollywood has moved forward even if other venues have not. I was just sent a clip from the most recent episode of Scandal (which I don’t watch but I think this clip has just persuaded me to do so!) Lisa Kudrow takes on the media and her opponent in her run for the Presidency here. Perhaps the partners at Clifford Chance could learn something about speaking and sexism by watching it!