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.

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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?

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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.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

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