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‘Seducing the boys club:’ Women sue Merrill Lynch for gender-discriminatory training

Boggle and candy?

Three women are suing Merrill Lynch for gender discrimination, alleging that a former manager tried to train them using a book titled Seducing the Boys Club: Uncensored Tactics From a Woman at the Top.

The 2008 book includes handy tips like stocking your desk with candy, bringing in games "like boggle and checkers," playing on men's "masculine pride and natural instincts to protect the weaker sex," as well as constant, unremitting flattery. ("It was also important to reinforce his hunk status," is one piece of advice.)

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Feel like quitting yet?

Nina DiSesa wrote the book and served as the first female chairman at ad-firm biggie McCann Erickson. The gist of her message is that men feel most at ease when among their own kind; women should be prepared to stroke some serious ego if they want to rise through the ranks. She recommends female employees and managers take on the roles of "little sisters" or "den mothers" in their office.

(Jezebel's Katie J.M. Baker dubbed it "Leaning In super sexily.")

In court documents, the three plaintiffs alleged they were fired from a Manhattan branch of the company after seven months in 2008 because the place had an entrenched "old boys' network." They found the crux of the book "highly offensive" because it "advocated conforming to gender stereotypes to get ahead in the workplace."

Being encouraged – by your boss, no less – to flirt and provide treats for office staff is disheartening.

Still, one female manager commenting on the New York magazine story said aspects of Seducing the Boys Club make sense: "I too realized that I had to learn to sugar coat criticism, bolster egos. … It's not a bad thing, it just a thing that you learn along the way as a manager – just as you have to learn that EVERY employee has his or her own individual personality quirks."

That said, the reader acknowledged that foisting the controversial reading material on trainees was a shockingly bad managerial move: "It looks like the higher-ups at Merrill Lynch still have a lot to learn about managing women."

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