Global law firm Clifford Chance is facing backlash for a now-viral memo on presentation skills it distributed to only women at the firm.
The five-page memo, published in full on Above The Law, is entitled “Presentation Tips for Women” and contains tips such as “don’t giggle,” “don’t squirm,” and “don’t mess with your glasses or hair.”
The memo also counsels its recipients to “wear a suit, not your party outfit” and reminds them that “no one heard Hillary the day she showed cleavage.”
Critics of the document say the majority of the tips are obvious and apply to all employees, therefore should not have been sent to only women. Those on the other side of the debate say most of the tips are solid — “practice with the mike;” “develop strategies for the worst case scenario;” and “don’t pace,” for example — and that the firm is being punished for a few items taken out of context.
Clifford Chance has dismissed allegations that the firm is sexist and told TODAY.com that the memo was compiled by a female partner based on “her personal perspective after years of public speaking.” The firm sent a full statement to Above The Law, which is excerpted below:
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 offence caused by a small percentage of the suggestions in the tip sheet was entirely unintentional.
The presentation skills memo is the second public debacle for the company in recent years. Clifford Chance found itself in the spotlight last November as well, after a departure notice from a young female associate outlining her grim daily schedule gained national attention.
Read more points from the memo below:
- It is better to be more formal, practiced & professional, even in a casual crowd
- Don’t drop your volume at the end of a sentence
- Don’t jumble your words, “dunno,” “wanna,” “probly”
- Pretend you’re speaking to the back wall
- Your voice is higher than you hear
- Think Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe
- Don’t lean on the lectern
- Overprepare the first minute, so you can begin confidently
- Even if you memorize, bring notes on a card to ensure you don’t blank
- Don’t sway
- If you have the choice of a podium or sitting down, choose the podium
- Make sure your mobile phone is turned off
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