Female MBA Students Recruited With Manicures

Scene from Sex and the City

Listen, we’d all love a free manicure. But when one of the world’s leading management consultancy companies uses free manicures to recruit female MBA students, we have to take a step back and go ‘huh?’

Earlier this month a group of women students at Stanford business school received pink invitations to a mani/pedi event in Palo Alto, California courtesy of McKinsey. As Lucy Kellaway wrote in the Irish Times last week, these incredibly intelligent brains were getting their “hard skin rubbed off their heels and their nails painted cerise and blue” while being extolled the benefits of working for McKinsey. Kellaway also highlighted how a few months ago Goldman Sachs gave potential female recruits goody bags with mirrors and nail files.

While looking well at work is a great confidence booster, this whole corporate trend smacks of patronization. Those pink invites and goody bags are the kid’s tables of wedding parties. Isn’t it lovely we’re making the effort to include you? In a world where pay equity is constantly being highlighted and women like Sheryl Sandberg have set up entire side business to help women succeed in the business world, leaning in to a beauty technician rather than a HR executive to discuss your potential pay package is a backward development.

Last week Microsoft also raised our blood pressure when the tech company’s new CEO Satya Nadella decided to offer women in the industry some career advancement advice. He said that women shouldn’t ask for raises, but to trust in “karma” – if they work hard and prove themselves they’ll bring home more money, eventually. “And in the long-term efficiency, things catch up.” Try telling that to women who have mortgages and children to look after.

Nadella later retracted his comments but considering the tech industry is associated with under-representing women, one would think a CEO for one of the world’s most recognisable brands would have more insightful thoughts about pay equity. In 2013 the US pay gap was estimated to be 22% – 78 cents to a man’s dollar.

In an article responding to the comments on Reuters, Karin Carter a former worker with Microsoft recalled her time spent there in the 1980s and 1990s. “The first time my fellow administrative assistant and I worked all night to get materials ready for a meeting, we got roses from the vice president of the international group. My first thought was, ‘Roses? How about money?'”

So while McKinsey are rolling out the shellac and Nadella is rolling back on publicly expressed thoughts, women are still waiting for employers to address what they really want. And what would charm a highly educated and ambitious woman? A company with an equal pay policy that seeks to encourage women to put themselves forward as leaders- LVMH rolled out a charter in the past year that supports women into such roles. Or does that sound a little bit too much like sharpened nails across a blackboard to men like Nadella?

What do you think – do raises ever happen when you sit prettily efficient? Let us know your thoughts below.

Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesutun

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