Last night, we started receiving reports of a memo entitled “Presentation Tips for Women” that was distributed by a member of the Women’s Committee to all women associates across the U.S. offices of Clifford Chance.I haven't worked in a law firm since the 80s, so you tell me: Why is there a "Women’s Committee" in the first place?
Our tipster was correct in that the vast majority of these words of wisdom aren’t tips for “women,” but rather, tips for “human beings.”Yeah, but there's a "Women’s Committee." These are women helping women. Either you like that or you don't. Pick one.
We’ve listed some of the most ridiculous “tips for women” here, along with our commentary...My link goes to an Above the Law post by Staci Zaretsky, which has the text of "the full memo," but I don't see the title "tips for women." Is that the title, or is the "for women" simply a characterization that arises from the fact that there is a "Women’s Committee" and it communicates with the women? In any event, the demeaning that the recipients experienced came, it seems, from the special effort at mentoring the women.
Anyone might benefit from most of these tips, but some address problems only women have, such as whether a little cleavage is ever okay or even good, whether to leave off the high heels if you're not expert at walking in them, and whether you need to make a point of wearing something with lapels if you're going to have a clip-on microphone, and whether you're doing something that might be termed "the urinal position" (which I'm guessing — Google didn't help — is a hands-around-genitals position that men are more likely to realize looks unprofessional).
How would you like to be an older woman at the firm trying to help the younger women present themselves in a way that won't have clients talking behind their back about their uptalking and creaky voice and so forth? It's not easy! We could reverse-engineer that badly received memo to come up with some Tips for Senior Women Advising Junior Women.
1. Don't affect "girltalk." You have power and authority. Acting like you don't fails to create the sense of warmth and intimacy you want and, ironically, sets a bad example of how to sound professional.
2. Make it gender-neutral. Everyone involved already knows you're women mentoring women. Continually pointing it out creates anxiety about whether it really is a special problem to be female.
3. Don't attempt humor, even when — especially when — you're talking about seemingly lightweight things like vocal quirks, hand gestures, hairstyles, and fashion. Even if you were a gifted comic writer — and you're not — it's best to be utterly dull when conveying advice that will be received as personal criticism. Remember the old punchline: That's not funny.