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Ernst & Young training seminar told women not to "flaunt" bodies

A good haircut. Manicured nails. A healthy and fit appearance. These were among the prescriptions for success for female executives at Ernst & Young, one of the "Big Four" accounting firms, delivered at a June 2018 training seminar, according to a report

Grooming instructions and other seemingly misguided advice were included in a 55-page manual from a third-party vendor, presented to more than two dozen female employees at Ernst & Young's Hoboken, New Jersey offices, HuffPost reported. The seminar took place weeks after the firm settled a sexual assault lawsuit involving a former female employee, and as companies big and small grapple to revise codes of conduct to address the Me Too movement.

An Ernst & Young employee who attended the training program and was distraught by its message provided the online news outlet with a copy of the materials.  

"Don't flaunt your body — sexuality scrambles the mind (for men and women)," reads an excerpt form the training materials obtained by HuffPost.   

The training, called Power-Presence-Purpose (PPP), was created by Marsha Clark & Associates, a business management consultant that offers workshops for companies and executives. Efforts to reach its owner, Marsha Clark, or the firm were unsuccessful. 

Ernst & Young did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment on the matter. 

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Above all, the training materials suggested that women should adhere to timeworn gender stereotypes to succeed at a male-dominated firm in a male-dominated industry.

Participants were also asked to indicate how closely they adhered to feminine and masculine stereotypes at work and outside of the office, according to HuffPo. "Affectionate," "cheerful," "childlike" and "flatterable" were included in the column of feminine traits, whereas "acts like a leader," "analytical," "assertive" and "has leadership abilities" were considered more masculine qualities. 

A series of so-called "Invisible Rules" included in the syllabus observed that women tend to "speak briefly," "phrase their thoughts and ideas as questions" and "wait their turn (that never comes) and raise their hands." 

Ernst & Young, in a statement to HuffPost, described the company's culture as progressive and inclusive, saying that "any isolated aspects [of the course] are taken wholly out of context." 

"EY has been — and remains — a highly recognized and award-winning leader in fostering a culture that promotes inclusion and a strong sense of belonging for all. We are, and remain, unrelenting in our effort to continue to set the standard for a best-in-class culture and work environment," the company told HuffPost. 

Some social media users were quick to bash the accounting firm. 

"This is without a doubt some of the worst demonstrations of sexism I've seen in a long while," said Twitter user Michelle Stevens. 

"This has got to be a joke. Either that or this is the Monday-est Monday ever," user Meredith Jones tweeted. 

"Words just can't express how angry this twisted, abusive garbage makes me. There are people who make a lot of money convincing young women that there is something deeply, essentially wrong with them," another tweeted.

The employee who turned over the materials said she did so in hopes that Ernst & Young would change some of its practices. 

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