Three male employees of the PricewaterhouseCoopers accountancy firm have been suspended, it has been reported. The Irish Sun says today that the three were told to stay at home as the company investigated the circulation of an email which ‘rated’ 13 new female employees into a top 10 based on their looks.
An internal company message has since been circulated by PwC bosses, warning that anyone who breached the company’s code of conduct and regulations would face “serious disciplinary action”.
The Evening Herald and The Irish Daily Mirror are also reporting that a second sexist email scandal has hit another major accountancy firm, KPMG. The Herald says that the email started as a discussion between two colleagues at KPMG about their “luck with the ladies”, chat-up lines and a “k-score” for rating women. The email went viral – with photographs of three employees mentioned in the mail included – and has apparently popped up in the inboxes of companies across Ireland.
Meanwhile, The Irish Daily Mail has today printed pictures of three of the male employees believed to have been involved in circulating or commenting on the email. (It is not suggested that any of the three pictured in the Mail have been suspended by PwC). The Irish Times noted yesterday in a blog post that several newspapers, including the Mail, had reproduced the pictures of the female PwC employees whose attractiveness had been rated in the email.
The PwC email which caused such huge controversy when it was revealed by The Irish Independent on Wednesday has made headlines across the world. The New York Daily News also reprinted some of the staff photographs of the female PwC employees under the headline: “Hot water after email rating new hires’ hotness goes viral.” The reporter wrote:
One employee replied (to the email), ‘Great work…’ and made a remark about how he had ‘reservations’ about one of the girls pictured. In another response, an employee uses a vulgar British term to refer to the group.
The Globe and Mail said “Ranking women? Not just something you’d see on Mad Men”. The leading Canadian newspaper said:
We like to think that Mad Men, with all its office catcalls and “sweetheart”-ing, is a period piece. But a group of male execs at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dublin have once again proven us wrong, after sending around an email ranking the new female recruits to the office, complete with about 13 headshots for individual assessment.
Tracy Corrigan in The Daily Telegraph in England concluded that “sending stupid emails is a male preserve”. She wrote of the PwC male employees involved in the furore:
The problem is not that they indulged in a harmless bit of banter about who’d be top of their list, given half the chance. Over a pint of beer in the pub on a Friday night, such talk is both predictable and forgiveable. It is the idea of a young PwC executive sifting through corporate photos of female colleagues and carefully ranking them, when he was supposed to be, I don’t know, looking at an insurance company’s balance sheet, that makes me cringe.
The controversy even touched the other side of the world, with TVNZ – a New Zealand news organisation – reporting on the incident. TVNZ noted that PwC is “no stranger to controversy”, saying:
Two years ago, it paid millions to former partner Christina Rich in Australlia following a dispute over claims she had been exposed to sexual harrassment and sex discrimination.
The company’s website lists “behaving professionally” and “respecting others” among expected conduct.
The Gawker website reported on “the ‘Top 10’ office email that’s scandalizing Ireland”, calling the email an example of “frat boy behaviour”. They predicted that the controversy would be a “nightmare” for PwC, which has 160,000 employees nationwide:
Perhaps this will serve as a warning to office-working dudes across the corporate world: Don’t do this.