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Do Looks Matter at Big 4 Firms? And If So, Do They Matter at PwC the Most?

Remember forums? The younger folks among us may not but those of us in the 35-55 age bracket likely spent some time in the forums of yore talking about cat care and car parts and whatever other nonsense we now discuss on Reddit like civilized people.

I don’t spend much time in forums these days but I found this ancient forum post in my Pocket (the app, not my pants) while digging around for something to write about for this vacation week so let’s discuss. It’s tangentially relevant given the brief mention of Xmas parties. Do Big 4 firms only hire hotties?

a screenshot of a forum post discussing looks at Big 4 firms

Well the PwC thing checks out given Bob Moritz is the hottest Big 4 leader.

Around the same time this forum post was made in 2010, a PwC associate with a 3.4 GPA was complaining that she was let go for being too hot. I’ll spare you the click to the old post and include the entire email below:

I have been following the story about the banker in NYC who was fired for her “appearance”. I was just fired today [June 11th] from my job at PricewaterhouseCoopers. I am a graduate of Lehigh University, I have been with the firm since September 2009. I would like to think I am competent enough to hold a job – I recently studied 8 hours for a CPA exam and passed. A test that I have watched my peers struggle with – studying for months and failing multiple times. I have 3 of 4 CPA exams completed, and I am 3-3 in my testing.

Anyway, I was placed on an engagement with an all-male team and one female partner. I was given a poor review on this engagement, however, my work received glowing reviews. On all my other teams I have gotten feedback that I am a pleasure to work with, intelligent, hard-working etc.etc. Per my performance review, they noted that the reason I performed below expectation was because I had a negative attitude with my team and the other piece of feedback I received, from this female partner, is that I was dressed inappropriately because I didn’t wear tights with my skirts in the winter. This is during a time we lived out of a hotel, working from 9am-4am, 7 days a week, and the last thing on anyone’s mind is clothes. I am a 22 year old girl, and I definitely do not “look the part” of an accountant. While on my team with all males, I received constant harassment about how I should “sleep with the senior manager (who was very disliked) to make him cooler” or “you have to go talk to the client cause you are hot”. My mentor from the firm was on my team as well, and every day would comment on my appearance, such as, “Did you lose weight? You look good” or “Your legs look fabulous today”. I was also told that my senior on the team was “in-love with me” and that I should “hook-up with him”. During this period I had a boyfriend whom I expressed my deep deep frustration on this with. Since my employment at the firm, I have been constantly harassed by the partner who hired me. I received such e-mails as, “I am home alone in my hot tub, you should come” or text messages like “So what color underwear are you wearing?” which, I kept my mouth shut about. Keep in mind this individual is married, with kids. Eventually I went to HR when I received my performance review because obviously there was a major disconnect. Of course, they “fully investigated” with the team of all males, and today I was told that I was fired, for under-performance. I was denied a copy of my performance reviews (which as our review policy goes – are given back to each individual at the firm). I inquired as to whether HR had spoken to other individuals I had worked with, and they told me “it was irrelevant” and that my review was contingent only upon “this one engagement (as referred to above)”. Bear in mind that I have worked on 5 other clients since September 2009, and these reviews were thrown to the wayside.

I have been following the story in the news about the woman banker fired in NYC, and have received multiple comments from my co-workers such as, “I can see them doing this to you” or “this is probably why the female partner doesn’t like you – cause you are hot”. Obviously, there seems to be an underlying theme here.

I graduated with a 3.4 from Lehigh, majoring in Accounting and minoring in writing. I got a 1410 on my SAT’s, a near perfect split of 710 Verbal and 700 Math. Throughout my life, the one thing I was sure of was my ability to compete intelligence-wise with my peers, and often exceed far above. So you can understand my extreme confusion and frustration that I could be capable of under-performing, at a firm, where there is documented proof on paper I perform well above my peer group.

So I come to you, whomever may be concerned, as this is an issue I am bringing to light and will hire an attorney for. I was wrongfully terminated – without a fair reason. I have saved all of my work performed while at PwC to provide as evidence of comparison with my peers. If this type of story strikes interest with anyone over at the NYT, I am more than happy to share more information. Like they say, Big Fours are “slave-drivers”, and yet again, they perpetuate this image.

I can be reached by telephone at [redacted]. I live in Stamford, CT and worked on clients from NYC to NJ to CT. Thank you for taking the time to read this – I am a bit flustered still from today’s events, but find no better way to vent than by writing.

Wonder if she ever hired that attorney.

So what do we think? Do looks matter in 2022? Did they ever? Do all the bridge trolls work for the mid-tier firms?

2 thoughts on “Do Looks Matter at Big 4 Firms? And If So, Do They Matter at PwC the Most?

  1. This case reminds me of Price Waterhouse v Hopkins, 490 US 228 (1989). Look the case up. Enjoy.

  2. I hope she did get an attorney, but seems as though we would have heard about a big scandalous court proceeding if it had gotten very far, which we didn’t.

    I hope she found a place where she could do quality work without constant remarks about her appearance, or expectations of her that have nothing to do with the work she was hired to do.

    I will admit that I have never been the kind of woman to receive such horrendous and insulting behavior directly by men I work with, so I don’t fit this category, but I have been around for the inappropriate jokes and the uncomfortable environment.

    There are men who don’t think this kind of behavior is a problem. There are women who blame women for bringing it on themselves based on what they do or do not wear. These are both ridiculous attitudes born out of the patriarchal system we continue to perpetuate especially in traditional fields, like accounting.

    As a woman, a professional, and a mother, I am embarrassed that things like this continue to happen in the 21st century.

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