Wall St giant in 'S & M' lawsuit

By Philip Sherwell

The American flag and a sign for Wall St. Photo / AP
The American flag and a sign for Wall St. Photo / AP

Female trainees at Merrill Lynch 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 S & M - seduction and manipulation", according to a sexual bias lawsuit.

Three women, who are suing the Wall Street giant after being laid off in 2009, said that 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 that they faced other forms of 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 that 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 largest 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.

Miss DiSesa, who began her career in New York advertising in 1973, said that she was "very surprised" to learn that her book was part of a discrimination case. "This book was a light-hearted, humorous memoir, not a how-to guide, about my experiences in my career," she said. "The goal was to empower women not make them feel subservient.

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

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 UK

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