Devonshires has been accused of "mind-boggling" sexism after offering women a manicure at a conference. It has also been accused of making misleading claims about the nature of its involvement in the event.

The firm told women attending the National Housing Federation's scintillating Housing Finance Conference in Liverpool that it was, "delighted to invite you to an afternoon of beauty, business networking and relaxation" at a local hotel "where you will be treated to a manicure with a glass of fizz and nibbles".

    Devonshires' ill-fated invite

The invite was tweeted by a client, Barbara Spicer, the Chief Executive of the Plus Dane Group housing association and whose name Devonshires spelled incorrectly as 'Barbra'. She replied, "Whilst it's very nice of @Devonshires to help with the Gender Pay Gap by paying for our manicures at Beauty, Bubbles & Business I think I’d rather go to an alternative event. Do they have a Bollocks, Beer & Business one?" In an open letter she asked Devonshires, "What did you offer the blokes who are at the conference - penis grooming along with a good pint of real ale to remind them of how masculine they are? And, perhaps, some classes in how to teach their daughters never to aspire to equality but to ensure they're always 'turned out nicely' if they do go to work". She said Devonshires, which specialises in the housing sector, should reflect on how to promote women in the industry instead of "this nonsense", because "certainly some of us who regularly commission you will be reflecting on it".

Other women in the housing sector made their displeasure known. "Do they think women need a time out from the conference to be pampered whilst the men carry on?", said one. "Absolutely mind boggling that organisations still think this is appropriate", said another. Lawyer Melanie Dirom said, "Today is maybe the day that Devonshires realise that us women do NOT sit around painting our nails, talking about hair styles & waiting for our men folk to get home so we can cook the tea". LPC student Emma Mitchell said she was "horrified a law firm would think this is acceptable".

  "After their Twitter storm these girls will need to redo their hair" - Devonshires, probably. 

David Orr, Chief Executive of the NHF, distanced his organisation from the firm. "For the avoidance of doubt, I think this is a monumental piece of nonsense", he said. "I agree with everyone who thinks it is crass". The NHF also released a statement disputing Devonshires' claim that they the firm was offering girly time in conjunction with the NHF. "To confirm", said the NHF, "We had no involvement in this and do not agree with it. Devonshires are not exhibiting at this event and we will be speaking to them about this".

Half an hour after being contacted by RollOnFriday for this story Devonshires announced that it had decided to cancel its manicure event. "We did not set out to offend anyone", it said. The firm also confirmed that its event "was in no way connected to the NHF".

This time last year Withers made a similar faux pas when it offered its female staff half price salad on International Womens' Day.
Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 09 March 18 07:57

The whining of the perpetually offended. Best call a waaaambulance.

Do they think acting like some hyper sensitive flower is actually the way to be taken seriously? Cos if you want to be the *same* as men consider whether a *make* reaction to a “pool and pint* or whatever naff networking bollocks would be.

Hint. It doesn’t involve whining on social media.

Anonymous 09 March 18 08:32

Being a female, I certainly don't see the issue with a manicure, I'm sure that there would be some men who love the same. PC gone mad!!!

Anonymous 09 March 18 08:38

The thing is that I assume that this event was arranged by or with the involvement of a female partner at a Devonshires, and that some female business leaders (and indeed male also, albeit fewer) would actually appreciate or enjoy this sort of event? Stupid email from a BD perspective but I am sometimes amazed by the capacity to take offence. Some shitty, downgrading things happen to women in business, but I am surprised if this is a front page example of it.

Anonymous 09 March 18 08:46

This kind of event is disgusting. I have never had a manicure in my life. It's a total waste of time. They have no idea of what most women are like!

Unless we keep making this clear people will think we are all just sitting there wanting someone prodding our hands.

Anonymous 09 March 18 08:55

Ridiculous uproar over nothing. I've been to lots of women's networking events that involve beauty - in fact one of the best ones I went to had make up master classes from Bobbi Brown. Not all women are interested just like not all men would be interested in a golf day but it's not sexist to offer it.

Anonymous 09 March 18 09:09

The reaction to this is madness. As a female US law firm asssociate i would welcome having some time to have someone do my nails!

Anonymous 09 March 18 09:20

If I was offered an alternative "Bollocks, Beer & Business" as suggested by Babs, I should opt for the manicure one.

Would much prefer a manicure than entertaining any suggestion of another's bollocks. Unless it was a female of course. Women have the right to want bollocks too.

Anonymous 09 March 18 09:25

To the anonymous user who has never had a manicure. You should try it someday. It won’t make you a frivolous lawyer. Certainly a relaxing experience.

Anonymous 09 March 18 09:27

I really don't think that the male equivalent of a manicure is "penis grooming". And that's the point here.

Anonymous 09 March 18 10:42

I am a woman, with my own business, and a staunch feminist. If I was offered a glass of fizz and a manicure at an event, I would say thank you, yes. We don't have to look very far to find real examples of inequality. This kind of overreaction, and vilifying people on social media, isn't helpful.

Anonymous 09 March 18 11:00

The world has gone crazy. I'm offended by her taking offence. It violates my human rights

Anonymous 09 March 18 12:00

Gosh, as a woman in property i would be very happy to take up their offer. I like mancures and so do a lot of women I know. I really think women should get a grip on this and focus on what actually matters. Would it be sexist to offer men a traditional barber shave?

Anonymous 09 March 18 12:07

anonymous user
09/03/2018 11:07
How is this sexist?

Because someone was determined to view it as such. That's all that is required now.

Anonymous 09 March 18 12:09

Failure from some here to put themselves in a woman’s shoes. Of course some women like manicures. But the point is, at this conference the perception was that it was being offered to them by men (perception being, right or wrong, that devonshires is run largely by men). As such i can see it would fel rather demeaning, as if the men think that’s what all women like - ‘give them nails and bubbly they like that’. Intention may have been good but it was soo clumsily executed. Look like dinosaurs.

All they needed to do was invite the men too.

Anonymous 09 March 18 13:16

The problem isn’t the event per we, the problem is I would be ridiculed by my colleagues if I did attend a manicure networking event

Anonymous 09 March 18 15:47

There is nothing wrong with networking to make new business colleges or new friends.
In the pub, in a fancy restaurant, on the golf course or at an event just for women.
Sad times when it get cancelled just because some people decide it's not for them or there type of people.
Mum and Dad always said look smart feel smart.
Looking professional and well turned out is always the key to success.
Shame really we all need a little pampering and love in our life now and then male or female.
Hope the event returns next year.
Fare play Devonshires you have our support.

Anonymous 09 March 18 17:25

I imagine the invite was signed by a woman, hence it being 'cut off' on the above - that would not have made nearly as good a story. Not a brilliantly worded invite, but trying to highlight your own feminist credentials by attacking other women who are trying to put on an event especially for women seems slightly odd to me.

Anonymous 09 March 18 18:29

Hysterical shrieking of the perpetually offended. Must be nice to be so damn privileged.

Roll On Friday 10 March 18 09:02

For goodness sake!
This PC nonsense is going mad.
First some women complain about male centred events then when an event for women is organised with good intentions then they complain too. Many women have manicures. Many women enjoy a glass of fizz.
Enjoying both at a networking event is perfectly acceptable and should not offend the feminists / PC brigade.
Let's focus protesting about real issues impacting women around the world who haven't the luxury of even the basic rights and stop these precious snowflakes imposing their ridiculous views on the rest of us.

Anonymous 10 March 18 14:15

One of the best developments in the last 25 years that I have been in the law is people beginning to understand that not every event has to be about getting rat-arsed or going to strip joints (particularly in property law). I think a manicure event is simply someone being a bit innovative - it is something you can do whilst chatting to people, and allows "networking", i.e., being able to bring work ideas in gently in an otherwise social environment.

And it is nothing like Withers' "faux pas" last year - that was awful (Ladies, you have a special day just for you! We know you like to eat, but no one want female fatties - that's what men are for - so have some salad! isn't that nice??)

Anonymous 11 March 18 20:46

Putting on one side the merits of Ms Spicer’s remarks her vitriolic diatribe against men raises a couple of serious issues. She as CEO of the HA and she is responsible for an equal opportunities policy. I find it difficult to believe that anyone with such trenchant views could operate such a policy. So is she suitable to have that role?

Secondly if this nonsense was turned round and it was written by a man about a women only event (all references to male / female suitably adjusted) would someone with similar views to Ms Spicier have reported it as a hate crime by now?

Is this more about Ms Spicer trying to raise her profile?

I would have expected a more measured comment from someone in her position. She could have queried the event in a more sophisticated comment. Her board of directors should query her conduct as this is simply offensive.

Anonymous 11 March 18 22:12

The comments by the CEO in response were unprofessional, crude and vulgar. I saw a company hosting a skalaletric event with men around a table is that sexist ?
Men and women generally like different things - pamper and a glass of bubbles cannot, and should not, spark this level of unjustified criticism.

Anonymous 12 March 18 11:02

no doubt some of the perpetually offended would have denounced anything more middle of the road like an invite to a sporting event as exclusive and sexist, in their rush to be offended. I agree that context is everything here, but not sure why such a vindictive public shaming of the firm was needed, when a phone call to a partner/marketing bod would have been sufficient.

Roll On Friday 12 March 18 13:56

The only thing inappropriate about the offer is that the chaps were not offered something as well. I cannot quite believe how rude Barbra was in response to the offer.

Anonymous 14 March 18 09:53

What an absolute loads of twaddle. No wonder British society is going to the dogs when we've got one half of the country indulging in priapic nationalist fantasies of empire or autarky, and the other half spending what might be their productive energies getting offended over nothing. Can one make money from professional offence-taking these days? Law firm invites women to a type of event lots of women like. World spins off axis. Grow *up*.

Anonymous 14 March 18 14:03

Why have girl events and boy events? It's daft. Gender has naff all to do with work. It's like inviting all gingers to a sunscreen party, because why bother when you could just have a regular party for whoever?

Anonymous 14 March 18 23:16

Devonshires have done nothing wrong. Spicer sounds like a barrel of laughs... and woe betide any of David Orr’s staff at the NHF having fun or showing a human side. If this guys definition of crass is a bit of harmless fun and a glass of wine perhaps he ought to come out from under his rock and have a look and some of the real issues that are plaguing society.

Well done to them both condemning some lighthearted fun and removing the choice of those that would have liked to get involved.

Shame on you both. Snowflakes.

Anonymous 20 March 18 22:36

I’d love the attend this! What a ridiculous thing to get offended over - many woman, and indeed some men, enjoy manicures and it’s hard to find the time in this profession to do things for yourself like this so I think it’s a great idea to have it as part of a networking event!