British Law Firm to Female Staffers: Speak Properly, No Cleavage

The British law firm Clifford Chance has some advice for its female employees in the US: stop giggling and speak properly. Oh, and no cleavage.

Female employees across the US received a heartwarming, five-page memo entitled, "Speaking Effectively," which advised them what not to wear, told them to "wear something special," warned against "giggling," outlined how to speak properly, and reminded them not to show cleavage at work.

Far from being merely helpful, though, some female employees felt the memo was patronizing and offensive.

One employee told the law blog AboveTheLaw.com that some female employees were very upset about the 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.

In one section, women were told to act in a professional manner and lose the "quirky mannerisms that are so charming to those who do know you."

Whoever wrote the memo was quite annoyed by women with high-pitched voices, too, as one bit of advice was to "lower the pitch." Women were also warned not to raise their pitch at the end of a sentence "if it's not a question."

The female employees were also warned not to giggle, not to squirm, and to lose sentence fillers such as "like," "um," "you know," etc.

Women were also told not to "hide behind your hair" and were told to wear proper business clothing. "Wear a suit not your party dress," it reads.

One point in the how to dress section ham-handedly says, "Don’t dress like you do every day, wear something special," as if women don't dress nicely "every day."

The British Independent reported that the tips were a result of a women's committee meeting with a senior female partner who was sharing how she presents herself to clients. The firm insists they didn't mean to offend.

A spokesman for the firm said, "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," the spokesman said.

Clifford Chance: Presentation Tips for Women


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