Law Firm Memo Advises Female Associates to Stop Giggling and Squirming


Most women in any business field should really be presenting themselves according to the The Woman’s Dress for Success Guide, but since it’s hard to get copies of that opus, the law firm of Clifford Chance has helpfully prepared a five-page document entitled “Presentation Tips for Women” that includes helpful suggestions like “Think Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe” and “No one heard Hillary the day she showed cleavage.”

According to Above the Law, all female associates in the United States offices of Clifford Chance were emailed this memo from a member of their “Women’s Committee.” One woman who got it said that “female associates are very upset by not only the elementary nature of the tips themselves, but the suggestion that these would only apply to women.” She’s right: some of these comments are gender neutral and therefore sort of puzzling, like the idea that JUST WOMEN should avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages. The woman went on to say, “We have never been a very female friendly firm, but this is beyond the pale.”

What exactly constitutes beyond the pale? Comments about how a woman can make herself sound less stupid, as demonstrated through these excerpts:

“Like” You’ve got to Lose “Um” and “Uh,” “You know,” “OK,” and “Like”
Pretend you’re in moot court, not the high school cafeteria

And lots of thoughts about how to make yourself sound more masculine and serious:

Lower the pitch
Say “uh-huh” and match that pitch to how low you can go
Your voice is higher than you hear

Seriously, you’re very dumb. Make sure you sound less dumb:

Sound Your Age
Resonate: fill up your mouth with your voice
Project power by visualizing filling a fat arrow extending 10′ out
Stand up
Think Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe

[Ed. Note: “fat arrow” – what? Is this a business technique?]

To be fair, some of the suggestions given to women at Clifford Chance acknowledge that women have a harder time making declarative statements than men do. To be unfair, there’s also no need to suggest that many would would “giggle” their way through any kind of presentation unless told not to:

Mean Business
Don’t hedge: “You may not be interested, if it’s ok…”
Don’t qualify: “Kind of, sort of, just…”
Don’t raise your pitch at the end of a statement if it’s not a question.
Don’t giggle
Don’t squirm
Don’t tilt your head
Don’t wave your arms
Stand up straight, take up space
Don’t lean on the lectern

And then of course there’s the age-old “You’re a woman, so there’s no way your outfit isn’t inappropriate” category:

What Not to Wear
No one heard Hillary the day she showed cleavage
Don’t dress like a mortician: if wearing a black suit, wear something bright
Don’t dress like you do everyday, wear something special
If wearing a skirt make sure the audience can’t see up it when sitting on the dais
If wearing a scarf, make sure it stays tied
Make sure you can stand in your heels, not trip, don’t rock back on them

In a statement, Clifford Chance told Above the Law that the tips were given to employees from one particular individual who has “found [them] helpful as a public speaker in a broad range of business environments.” They added that, “The offense caused by a small percentage of the suggestions in the tip sheet was entirely unintentional.” Unintentional offensiveness: the best and easiest to get away with.

Biglaw Memo From Top Firm Advises That Women ‘Don’t Giggle,’ Don’t ‘Show Cleavage’ [Above the Law]

Image via Metro Goldwyn Mayer

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