Sexism in the Corporate World: EY, #Glasses are Forbidden and Mary Cain

It needs to stop. Too often, women are being measured by their outward appearance, their sexual appeal, instead of by their work. As a young woman, studying in university to enter this world, I am terrified of what awaits me. It's incredibly important to raise awareness about these issues so that professional women are heard, and the system is reformed. Three incidents marked me recently on this topic: the glasses ban in Japan, the sexist women's training at Ernst and Young and professional track runner Mary Cain's story with Nike.


This sexism is clear in Japan with its strict requirements for the presentation of women in the workplace. An important element of this practice is Japan's ban on glasses for women. Many women, from a variety of professional fields, including retail jobs, restaurants, sales, nursing and airlines, have expressed contempt over the fact that their bosses disallow them from wearing glasses. They claimed that glasses make the women appear more closed-off, and clash with traditional outfits. Makeup and a "pleasing figure" are also required of these women. Now, they are taking to social media with #GlassesareForbidden. In June, a similar movement called #KuToo against sexist dress codes also gained popularity.

EY Training

The same problems apply here in Montreal. The prestigious accounting firm Ernst and Young now faces major backlash for their Women's Training from June 2018. This 55-page training was given at a seminar, attended by 30 female professionals, on "leadership" and "empowerment". Surprisingly (or maybe not), these were the seminar's main points:

- Don't flaunt your sexy skin (mirroring the issues in Japan)

- Don't be aggressive like men

- Don't talk to men face to face (men see it as threatening!)

- You have to work around the men

Before the seminar, the women had to fill out a score sheet, which essentially taught them that their careers would be penalized if they displayed "typically male" characteristics. None of the female characteristics were leadership attributes. A fun quote from the presentation, which again emphasizes this weird difference between men and women's abilities, includes: 

"Women’s brains absorb information like pancakes soak up syrup so it’s hard for them to focus," the attendees were told. "Men’s brains are more like waffles. They’re better able to focus because the information collects in each little waffle square.”

This was in the height of the #MeToo movement, which one would think would generate a wildly different seminar. However, the women at Ernst and Young, who make up only 20.4% of the company, were told how to behave according to a system designed to limit them—not how to break out of this repressive system. 

Mary Cain

Track Runner Mary Cain's experience also parallels the immense pressure and objectification women suffer in our society. She was recruited by Nike back in 2013, as the fastest girl in America. However, when she joined Nike's Oregon Project, coached by famed Alberto Salazar, it wasn't what she had expected. Instead of nurturing her skills, she was pressured into losing weight. Cain described how the “all-male Nike staff became convinced that in order for me to get better, I had to become thinner, and thinner, and thinner." She ultimately became depressed, even suicidal, and left the team. Again, Cain was objectified, instead of having her worth be determined by her work.

Ladies, let's do our best to stick together and stay informed. We need to support each other, both through positive reinforcement and by being aware of the issues we collectively face.



Cain Image from Getty Images