Ernst & Young's sexist training to 'help women do better' was wrong on so many levels

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You know when you watch shows like Mad Men and cringe as you witness the sexist, patronizing and downright gross environments that women had to work in? "Thank goodness it's not like that anymore," we might say with a sigh of relief.

Well, hold on to your pencil skirts, mamas.

The Huffington Post recently shared a story in which they report on a 2018 training at Ernst & Young, one of the largest accounting firms. This training entitled "Power-Presence-Purpose" was allegedly intended to help women do better in the workplace, apparently by pretending that it is 1960.

Huffington Post shared a few quotes pulled directly out of the presentation:

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Women should strive to be "polished," having a "good haircut, manicured nails, well-cut attire that complements your body type."

"Don't flaunt your body―sexuality scrambles the mind (for men and women)."

Women should be aware of their tendencies to "speak briefly... scramble and miss the point" when speaking at a meeting.

(and my personal favorite):

"Women's brains absorb information like pancakes soak up syrup so it's hard for them to focus, the attendees were told. Men's brains are more like waffles. They're better able to focus because the information collects in each little waffle square."

Training participants were also asked to complete a self-assessment, in which they were to evaluate themselves on their "masculine/feminine qualities."


Ernst & Young was unavailable for comment when we called, but they have acknowledged publicly that an outside firm led the training, and they regret the messages shared.

Kelly Grier, managing partner of Ernst & Young, stated, "Let me start by saying how deeply I regret the negative association that this program has had on EY in the media, and to acknowledge that mistakes have been made...We celebrate differences and authenticity and the courage of conviction, and we encourage bold leadership and a culture of belonging," Grier said.

Okay. So a (pretty big) mistake was made, and they will, or they won't make it right. If anything, I was excited to see the backlash against this because it means that the world has, in fact, changed it's Mad Men ways (or is at least starting to), and this type of attitude is no longer acceptable.

But, like with every news story I read, my mind instantly goes to my children. What does my parental response to this news need to be?

I need to ensure that I am instilling the values that will enable my children to call trainings like this into question, instead of accepting them as truth.

Studies that find that starting at around age 12, girls experience a dramatic drop in confidence, but boys don't. There are many reasons behind this, but perhaps the most striking is this, shared in The Atlantic:

"...at an early age, parents and teachers frequently encourage and reward girls' people-pleasing, perfectionistic behavior, without understanding the consequences."

The consequence is seminars that teach women they have pancake brains.

In a way, I am selfishly appreciative that this issue has presented, because it serves as a sharp reminder that while we've made incredible advances, there is still so much work to be done.

Here are five things I am going to recommit to (for my daughter and my sons):

1. I will be hyper-aware of my language around my children

I vow to never let my children hear me complain about my body. And, I will renew my efforts to choose positive words around them. Instead of telling my daughter not to be bossy, I am going to say, "You're a good leader. Let's give your little brother a turn to practice being the leader now."

2. I will not make assumptions about my children based on their genders

There is no action, behavior or emotion that is made acceptable or unacceptable based on my child's gender.

3. I will teach my children that I trust their decision-making skills

It is so tempting to jump in and solve every little problem that creeps in throughout the day. While that is a temporary fix, in the long run, it does not teach them that they can depend on themselves.

An example of this happened just the other night when my daughter was really upset that an afterschool errand would mean she had to delay getting her homework done. "I won't be able to get it all done, mom!" Instead of jumping to the rescue—"I'll help you, don't worry"—I said,

"Have you done hard things before?"
"Yes," she answered.
"Since you've done hard things before, do you think you could do something hard again?"
… "yes" (although begrudgingly)

4. I will let them talk back to me

This one is hard. I have never been a "back-talker." I still struggle with it as an adult; which is precisely why I need to let my kids talk back.

They need to know that it is okay to have an opinion, even if it differs from the people with "more" power around you. Yes, I will teach them how to share those opinions respectfully, ("MOMMY IS A POOPY-PANTS" won't fly), but they have to learn—from me—that their opinion has value and their voice has meaning.

When I remember to do this (which is definitely not always) it looks like this:

My son starts whining about needing to leave the playground, and despite my instinct reaction of, "I said now!" I try:"This seems really important to you. Can you use words to explain to me what you're feeling?"

I have to say, about seven out of 10 times he is actually able to do this. Sometimes I let him "win," and we stay another five minutes, and sometimes he doesn't win, and we still leave. But my hope is that it conveys to them that standing up for themselves is a worthy cause.

5. I will let them choose what they wear

So much easier said than done, especially when it's the sparkly Halloween jack-o-lantern shirt with the rainbow unicorn pants and half of their costume from the first-grade play. In January. On picture day. (This is hyper-specific because this is a real outfit chosen by my daughter.)

But, choose it, she may.

She gets dressed for herself, not for anyone else. If she feels awesome (and is warm enough), great. It's not long before the world will start to tell her how to dress, so she needs that self-assuredness now.

I'm sad to say that while the news of the Ernst & Young story caught my attention, it didn't really surprise me. I am a woman after all, and I understand what it is to live in this society. But that doesn't mean I just accept it; not even close.

I am so appreciative of the women that came forward to report what happened and promise to reaffirm my commitment to ensuring that it stops with us. The next generation's leaders are in our arms right now.

Let's do right by them, and our future.

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Jessica Simpson's life seems perfect. She has three beautiful kids, a wildly successful career, a seemingly solid marriage...she has it all, at least as far as we can see. But recent revelations prove that no one really knows what anyone else is secretly dealing with—and Jessica, by her own admission, has been struggling with alcohol issues.

The singer-turned-business-woman recently sat down with TODAY's Hoda Kotb, and it will air on NBC's TODAY Wednesday morning.

"I had started a spiral and I couldn't catch up with myself…and that was with alcohol," Jessica explained. "I would say it openly to everyone. 'I know. I know, I'll stop soon. I'll cut back'," Jessica continued when asked if she realized things were getting out of control. "For me to cut back, like I'm an all or nothing girl, and so I didn't know it was a problem until it was...I completely didn't recognize myself…I always had a glitter cup. It was always filled to the rim with alcohol."

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She's hardly alone. The rise of #winemom phenomenon is well documented and many parents struggle with substance abuse problems. But Simpson's story proves there is a way to get your life back.

Simpson quit drinking in 2017 after she found herself unable to get her kids ready for a Halloween party. She says she'd started drinking before 7:30 in the morning, before accompanying her husband, Eric Johnson, to a school assembly for their oldest daughter. Later that night she was unable to get her kids dressed in their Halloween costumes. The next morning she was so ashamed. Feeling like she had failed her kids she slept until they left the house, then got up and drank some more.

That episode was her tipping point. She quit drinking (as did her husband, Eric Johnson, who supports her in her sobriety.)



As parents, we know how overwhelming the demands can be...and how easy it is to sink into habits that don't ultimately serve us well. For Jessica, the way to heal was to sever her relationship with alcohol.

"I had to give [drinking] up," Jessica said. "I'm not going to miss another day. I'm not going to miss another Halloween. I'm not going to miss another Christmas. I'm going to be present."

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Babies come with a lot of stuff. And when you're out and about, a roomy, comfy diaper bag is the place for everything you need to be prepared for whatever the day throws your way. But is a cute, trendy diaper bag that doesn't scream, well... DIAPER BAG, too much to ask? It's not, mamas.

We've rounded up our favorite diaper bags that don't actually look like diaper bags, but instead like the cute, super stylish bags you might have carried before the days of finding crushed up puffs at the bottom of your purse.

These bags prove you can get the job done, mama—and look darn good while doing it.

Freshly Picked City Pack

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This simple, modern backpack can easily take you from a day at work to dinner with the kiddos. We love the hardware details, the lightweight design, and the hidden back pocket.

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Vogshow Waterproof Bag

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A sleek look, plus a padded laptop compartment, anti-theft and insulated pockets and magnetic buttons instead of zippers. 🙌

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Skip Hop Travel Bag

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Companion Quilted Backpack

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Are you off to sit on the beach for a few hours, or taking your toddlers to the zoo? No one will be the wiser, mamas. We love the quilted look, padded straps, and roomy interior.

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Mommore Diaper Backpack

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With a water resistant exterior, wet clothes pocket and a main compartment that completely opens up, you'll love having this to tote around.

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JJ Cole Brookmont

JJ Cole Cognac Diaper Bag

As stunning as it is functional. It has 15 pockets and a removable liner on the inside so you can easily clean up messes in no time.

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Little Unicorn Boardwalk Tote

If you're looking to keep things simple + stylish, mamas, this is the bag for you. It's versatile, functional, and will get tons of use well past the diaper days.

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Presidio Vegan Leather Diaper Tote

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This stunning tote would make the perfect on-the-go bag. It comes with a changing page and a couple pockets on the inside to keep everything organized. Don't forget to personalize it!

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Ticent Tote

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With nearly 500 reviews, this one has incredible ratings. It offers multiple pockets, including an insulated one for snacks or bottles. The waterproof cotton material is ideal for those inevitable spills.

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Fawn Design Original

Stylish and versatile, this bag can be worn as a cross body or as a backpack. It's roomy without being bulky, and has a total of 10 pockets for awesome storage.

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Skip Hop Greenwich Backpack

No one would ever know this bag is packed full of baby's items. 😉

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Rosie Pope Highbury Hill

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If you're looking to up your style, this chic backpack will help you get there. Lots of inner pockets and zippered compartments make it simple to organize your stuff, and the top flap and wide opening make for quick + easy accessibility.

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Babymel Robyn

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We love everything about this effortlessly stylish faux leather backpack. It's easy to wipe down, converts to a cross body bag, and even comes with a changing pad and drawstring bottle holder.

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Petunia Pickle Bottom Pathway

Petunia Pickle Bottom Diaper Tote

This two-tone canvas bag could not be prettier. We love that it easily stands upright when set down, and that it's super functional as a diaper bag yet super stylish as an everyday purse.

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Skip Hop Duo

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The timeless stripes on this 11-pocket bag means it will never go out of style, and the durable cotton canvas means it will stand up to years of use.

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We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Frustrations and emotions were at an all time high for both us. I was worried that my lack of patience would get the best of me, leaving her feeling let down and frustrated with me on her new journey of becoming a “big girl." And selfishly, I was tired of washing wet underwear. For her part, my daughter was tired of being asked for the hundredth time if she needed to use the potty.

We both were feeling a little defeated in this new adventure.

I have found too often as a mother that I expect my child to respond new things, like to potty training, as fast and as close to the last blog post, book or opinion I heard or read. What I have learned is that no two children are alike and the moment I release my expectations for where mine should or should not be, we are both brought back to peace and patience.

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So maybe a break was all we needed to start fresh the next day. We headed to our favorite spot by the lake and had a picnic. My daughter munched on popcorn and chatted away about the weather and pinecones, and listened for the sounds of helicopters—which you hear quite often living on an aviation military base.

Sometimes in the daily struggles of motherhood I have noticed that I can forget who I am and the strength we possess as mothers. It may not come easily at first, but I grow with each new day. Even potty training—this mundane human activity that is emotional and (quite literally) messy, teaches me much about the meaning and purpose of motherhood.

Potty training has taught me a huge lesson on patience. Patience to be present, to pay attention to what is right in front of me. To be encouraging, to not rush the process, to not place expectations on timing or play the comparison game we often play as mothers.

Patience is needed in every area of parenting and potty training is just one way where we can see as parents where our patience is wearing thin.

I have found that it's when I come from a place of patience and presence that I can then glean wisdom from those messy, mundane, time-consuming tasks of potty training, and find that the waiting, sitting and hours of time spent in the bathroom gives me an opportunity to be present in my child's world.

Whether it be the grocery line, a traffic jam, or cleaning up wet bedding, I learn the art and joy in the small and big moments in motherhood. Giving our children space to fail and try it again as many times as it takes encourages them that they too can cultivate the gift of patience in there own tiny lives.

My daughter speaks to me everyday, inviting growth that sometimes feels really hard and frustrating, she provokes patience to be felt and sensed through every minute of the day. And for this I am grateful. Because to truly live and be present in my child's world means “I learn from her, and she learns from me." Even in potty training.

Our children have so much to offer to who we are as individuals and they have so much to teach us. In fact, I have come to live for these exhausting, beautiful, and downright messy moments in time. When I push myself to embrace them, rather than just find them frustrating, I stretch and grow and evolve. I become the mother I hope to be.

And to you mama, whether in the midst of sleepless newborn nights or toddler tornados or the midst of potty training, may you find strength as a mother, as a wife, and as a person to let go of any expectations or judgements you place upon yourself.

May love and gratitude fill our hearts and peace be with all of us on the journey that motherhood is.

Life
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