Ernst and Young encourages image workshops for female staff

Women at a major professional services firm have been encouraged to take part in workshops to improve their physical presentation.

More than 400 female employees at accountancy Ernst & Young took part in ‘Dress for Success’ workshops in September and October, where they were advised to avoid strong perfumes and risqué tops in the workplace.

They also received advice such as ‘do not bring an evening bag to a daytime meeting’ and ‘think of your colour palette – wear colours that bring out the best in your skin tone and hair colour’ from an external consultant at events in London, Reading and Manchester.

Fleur Bothwick, head of diversity and inclusiveness at Ernst & Young, said the workshops were important for personal development.

“It’s not that our women have problems dressing correctly,” she told Personnel Today. “The whole point of our gender strategy is to attract and help people achieve full potential, and if we don’t do this sort of thing, they miss out on that.”

She added: “You don’t want to be remembered as the woman with red lips, or leave people wondering ‘how does she walk on those heels?’.”

Anne Freden, chair of the accountancy’s women’s network, said women often found it difficult to know what clothes were acceptable at work.

“The firm doesn’t view this as something that’s nice to have, but as an integral part of business strategy,” she said. “There is a huge number of capable and talented women at Ernst & Young looking to maximise their achievement in the firm and in their career, and looking for the skills and tips and tools to do that.”

Fiona Ingham, external consultant at House of Colour, the image consultancy used, said 70% of first impressions are based on dress and presentation.

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