PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Sex-Proof Office


We love Top Ten lists don’t we? Top Ten sex tips, top ten X-Factor tantrums, top ten movie moments, no doubt we’ll get top ten Christmas gift ideas spammed into our inboxes very soon. Perhaps it offers comfort that we’ve achieved an exhaustive sense of order into this overwhelming modern world of information? Perhaps this is what a group of young PwC accountants felt when they circulated ‘that’ email?

They are number crunchers after all. It’s only natural to want to condense a shortlist of 13 female staff into a list of ten attractive ones, rated in order of – one presumes – fuckability. The unanimous verdict was up for debate between – oh something like 17 staff members. After several ‘forwards’, the number contributing males was something like – oh thousands I imagine, once it did the global office rounds.

The usual cacophony of headlines has ensued. Angry tweets are condemning the race of man. Stern comments litter the footer of any reportage on the story, pointing out the bass position of the human male on the evolutionary scale – really, what sort of low-life amoeba would allow himself to be ruled by a libido?! The Daily Mail has made it very clear that ‘all the women come from respectable backgrounds and have university educations’ as if that somehow heightens the scandal.

The accountancy giant is pacifying them. It says it has ‘launched an investigation’. What exactly they are they investigating is less clear – the cause of the deviant male mind? PwC are anthropologists now?!

But underneath all this spluttering keyboard rage, PwC should ask what is your point exactly? Or rather, what do you want? Policing of the human mind until its morality is so perfectly tuned that it can turn on and off its sexual urges according to appropriate surroundings? Darling, I want you to be a man when you are in the bedroom, protecting me, mending DIY, paying for dinner or sending me dirty texts. The rest of the time, I want you to be an a-sexual erudite.”

Have we really reached a point of political correctness where sexist attitudes are so feared they are considered barbaric? Do we really repel this so strongly that we can ask employees to alter their human psyche before they come into work?

The subtle differences of men and women should be cause for delight but now it seems the vogue is for a rather dull blending of genders. Women are just as sexually charged as men (Stephen Fry take note!). It is just that women have added filters – usually related to trust, emotion and, sorry guys, time – but once through these, we’re just like you.

When I was at primary school (do we still call it that?) I remember huddling in a doorway in the playground with other girls and the ringleader would ask: “Who do you fancy in our class?” “No-one!” “No, but if you HAD to pick one?” And then we’d giggle so hard about the hypothetical ranking of our snotty-nosed boy classmates that we’d nearly fall off our My Little Pony lunchboxes.

I have often sat in an office and, in an attempt to restart a stalled attention span, walked my eyes around the room, musing idly who – in a very faraway and not too serious fantasy – would be fuckable. Is that so depraved? I have never put the results into an email obviously, but perhaps that is down to the more subtle and autonomous hunting technique of my gender.

The 17 male bean counters at PwC were merely exhibiting symptoms of the natural male pack-hunting tactic that has existed throughout history, since Neanderthal Man. We really shouldn’t get into such a tizzy about this. Yes, a civilised society requires rules to function. And obviously there should be a spirit of self-control in professional environments, but everyone knows that underneath even the most austere suit is a human being with a sex drive. I can’t imagine that when these women discovered they had been ‘rated’, it would have been a great surprise.

Quite a relief I would have thought. A parent of one woman who worked in the same office apparently phoned into a national radio talk show in Ireland to complain that her daughter had not made the list.

Imagine the shame! In another (and better paid) life, before journalism, I was also one of those big-four ‘accountancy trainees’. Shortly before Arthur Andersen dumped those Enron documents in the paper shredder (and hence collapsed), I joined a group of 30 other graduates to train to be a tax accounting. If I should ever learn that during the very ‘university-esque’ first year of the traineeship, I was left out of any ‘ratings’ emails that I am no doubt circulated behind my proxy server, I would be devastated.

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