Ernst & Young's advice to female employees is an archaic throwback to the 1950s
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In today's episode of WTH, professional accounting services firm Ernst & Young has taken gender dynamics in the workplace to a whole new level. And by whole new level, I mean totally batsh*t backwards.

An anonymous former employee sent a 55-page Power-Presence-Purpose (PPP) presentation to HuffPost, detailing a self-improvement training offered to employees last year. According to "Jane," who has since left the company, the presentation was demeaning to women and left her feeling like a piece of meat.


For example, a section focused on appearances said that women need to "signal fitness and wellness" (is there any way to read that other than "don't be fat"?), and that women should have a "good haircut" and "manicured nails." They should also wear "well-cut attire that complements your body type," but also "don't flaunt your body" and "don't show skin" because "sexuality scrambles the mind."

So be hot, but not too hot. Wear clothes that flatter your body, but make sure no one notices your body. Be sure that your idea of not-too-much-skin conforms to every other person's subjective sexy threshold. And get your nails done, lady.

RELATED: Forbes' 100 Most Innovative Leaders list includes 99 men. Here's how their methodology was flawed

Now how about we tack on a list of arbitrary "masculine" and "feminine" traits that make men look like natural leaders (ambitious, assertive, dominant, makes decisions easily, strong personality) and women look like pushovers (childlike, flatterable, gullible, soft-spoken, yielding).

Attendees were given a "Masculine/Feminine Score Sheet" before the seminar and asked to rate how they ranked on each trait in and out of the workplace. Jane said the message was that you had to keep these stereotypical traits in mind and adhere to them if you want to be successful at work.

She also said that women at the training were coached in how to interact with men, with advice such as:

  • Don't directly confront men in meetings, because men perceive this as threatening. (Women do not.) Meet before (or after) the meeting instead.
  • If you're having a conversation with a man, cross your legs and sit at an angle to him. Don't talk to a man face-to-face. Men see that as threatening.
  • Don't be too aggressive or outspoken.

Jane said that attendees were told that women's brains are 6% to 11% smaller than men's brains, with no further explanation for why that would even be relevant. It was also explained to them that women have a hard time focusing because their brains absorb information like pancakes soak up syrup. Men's brains are more like waffles, and they are better able to focus because they compartmentalize information in each little square.

So...Men are from Waffle House, Women are from IHOP? What actual fresh hell did we just fall into?

And wait one hot minute. If men are so good at focusing because waffles, what's with the bit about skin and sex scrambling their brain? Can they not just put sex into one waffle square and professionalism into another? If their brains are so good at separating out all the information they take in, how are they not capable of seeing a colleague without her legs crossed as just a colleague and not a sexy threat to their male ego? Could it be because the entire premise of this idea is bullpucky?

RELATED: Men share times when they've stood up to misogynistic behavior.

Interestingly, the presentation was actually created by a woman—Marsha Clark, an outside consultant. The HuffPost article, in which Clark declined to comment, explains a bit of her background and why perhaps her approach to gender in the workplace appears so out-of-date:

"Clark touts her own business experience as critical to her consulting expertise. According to her website bio, she served as an executive at Electronic Data Systems, the Texas technology company founded by Ross Perot, for 21 years before striking out on her own as a consultant in 2000.

Working as one of the few women in the C-suites of the Texas tech industry in the 1980s and 1990s would have been a sexist minefield. That experience may be why Clark's advice still follows an older approach of telling women how to navigate within stereotypes rather than confronting them more directly."

Yeah, maybe. But it's baffling that anyone in 2018 could possibly find the above advice not completely abhorrent. Internalized misogyny, anyone?

Ernst & Young told HuffPost that the version of the training described here is no longer being used and that they disagreed with Jane's characterization of it. "Any isolated aspects are taken wholly out of context," they wrote. Mmmkay. I'm not sure how any of the above would be considered favorable in any context. And that's great that they aren't using this version any more, but it's only been a little over a year since they did—as if we didn't know in July of 2018 that giving women conflicting advice about how they should look and telling them to be more demure and less assertive in the workplace was not archaic, 1950's thinking.

It's crap like this that makes me want to buy allll the Crush the Patriarchy t-shirts. But maybe that's just my syrupy pancake brain talking.

Last summer, my husband and I went to a grocery store in Sandpoint, Idaho to pick up some ice cream. As we started walking down the frozen foods aisle, my husband grabbed my arm to stop me. He gestured to the couple ahead of us, and I saw what he saw—a handgun sticking out of the back of the man's pants.

Sandpoint is an idyllic, small mountain town on a pristine lake, where people come to stay for water sports in summer and skiing in the winter. It's also not far from the Wal-mart where a two-year-old had pulled a handgun out of his mom's purse and killed her with it several years ago.

We turned around and left the ice cream aisle, choosing to wait until the openly armed shopper left. And we were irritated. Seeing a man with a gun in a grocery aisle feels like living in a war zone—meanwhile, Sandpoint's violent crime rate is half the national average.

Twitter user "Cacky" shared a similar encounter in an Oklahoma Trader Joe's, with a photo of a man with a handgun in a holster on his hip at the salad display.

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Last summer, my husband and I went to a grocery store in Sandpoint, Idaho to pick up some ice cream. As we started walking down the frozen foods aisle, my husband grabbed my arm to stop me. He gestured to the couple ahead of us, and I saw what he saw—a handgun sticking out of the back of the man's pants.

Sandpoint is an idyllic, small mountain town on a pristine lake, where people come to stay for water sports in summer and skiing in the winter. It's also not far from the Wal-mart where a two-year-old had pulled a handgun out of his mom's purse and killed her with it several years ago.

We turned around and left the ice cream aisle, choosing to wait until the openly armed shopper left. And we were irritated. Seeing a man with a gun in a grocery aisle feels like living in a war zone—meanwhile, Sandpoint's violent crime rate is half the national average.

Twitter user "Cacky" shared a similar encounter in an Oklahoma Trader Joe's, with a photo of a man with a handgun in a holster on his hip at the salad display.

Keep Reading Show less
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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."