Thursday 21 September 2017

Women sue over 'seduction' book at Wall Street firm

Philip Sherwell New York

Female trainees at a giant Wall Street firm were handed copies of 'Seducing the Boys Club: Uncensored Tactics From a Woman at the Top' and told to follow its advice, which included "the art of seduction and manipulation", according to a sexual bias lawsuit.

Three women, who are suing Merrill Lynch after being laid off in 2009, said they "considered the message of the book to be highly offensive" because it "advocated conforming to gender stereotypes to get ahead in the workplace".

Female trainees were ordered by their male boss to attend a talk by the writer, the lawsuit contends. It also alleges they faced other forms discrimination, such as being told off for not being sufficiently "perky" and "bubbly" and pressured to attend women-only events on subjects such as "dressing for success".

Sara Hunter Hudson, Julia Kuo and Catherine Wharton claim they lost their jobs in a shake-up following the financial crisis because of an "old boys' network" that favoured men.

At the centre of the lawsuit filed in the New York Supreme Court is the book 'Seducing the Boys Club' by Nina DiSesa, the first chairwoman of McCann Erickson in New York, the world's biggest advertising agency.

DiSesa encourages women "to stroke men's egos with flattery and manipulation in order to succeed in a male-dominated environment such as Merrill Lynch", the suit states.

In the book, she encourages women not to criticise male colleagues in front of others and to play to their egos. She lists "Five Classic Mistakes Women Make When We Lead the Boys" (number one, "We get drunk with power", to number five, "We forget that we have to be better than men").

Ms DiSesa, who began her career in New York advertising in 1973, said she was "very surprised" to learn her book was part of a discrimination case.

"This book was a light-hearted, humorous memoir, not a how-to guide about my experiences," she said. "The goal was to empower women, not make them feel subservient.

"In a male-dominated environment I found it helps to stroke men's egos, and we as women can manipulate that to our advantage."

She said she had given a well-attended talk to a women's group at Merrill Lynch and was not aware anyone had been ordered on a "forced march" to hear her.

A federal court rejected a similar lawsuit in January, but the women's lawyers have now filed the claim at state level where discrimination laws are broader. The women have declined to comment.

A Merrill Lynch spokesman said: "These claims have been already considered by a federal judge and rejected. Diversity and inclusivity are part of our culture and core values." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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