You’re fired! Sexism in The Apprentice

Fiona Hutchings is not impressed with the BBC’s sexist hype around Sunday’s final of The Apprentice…

The BBC really can’t handle the idea of career, competence and women in the same sentence, it seems.

Sunday’s Apprentice finale was – shock horror – an all-female final and it seems to be the gender rather than the skills of finalists Kate Walsh and Yasmina Siaddatan that caught the Beeb’s attentions. ‘Girl Power’ screamed the link on the BBC website leading to an article trailing the final.

The piece doesn’t start well. ‘Armed with their lip gloss and high heels, Kate Walsh and Yasmina Siaddatan will be seen battling it out on Sunday’s show’. If it was two men in the final would they be armed with manscara and loafers? No, I thought not. I guess they think it’s a fun way to introduce these professional women, but actually it’s patronising, belittling and gives the impression of two little girls playing dress-up.

It doesn’t get any better. ‘If the winner was determined by the strength of their hand shake alone – then Walsh would win hands down, as her grip is extraordinarily strong.’ Again that undertone of girls trying to be like men to be taken seriously. I have a firm handshake; I know that because it’s been commented with the same sort of surprise by men I work with. I am not trying to be a bloke either.

And then they drag up the fact that Kate hates women or at least wouldn’t want to work in a female-dominated environment. “I think, perhaps, people expect women to be quite emotional in the work place and I don’t fit that stereotype,” she explains.

Now I can’t make my mind up about this. Woman who are composed and not quick to show emotion are often viewed with suspicion by men and women alike. It’s not helpful to write us all off as emotional. I think it is hard enough to be taken seriously in the business world as a woman and comments like this gain a lot of media attention and reinforce this idea of struggling women who can’t cope in a man’s world and are all crying in the toilets.

On the other hand she is entitled to her opinion. And if she had just said, “Throughout the process, I have managed to keep my composure and remain professional and, perhaps, I didn’t let my guard down enough and let the real Kate shine through. I was very, very keen to keep up a professional image throughout the whole entire process, which is basically a 12-week interview,” then I don’t think she would have garnered much attention.

It is not the responsibility of Kate Walsh to change the way women are viewed in the business world and maybe she is just playing a savvy game. It’s not right but its true in my experience that women who display more aggressive traditionally male characteristics do better and are taken more seriously. The media love to pigeon hole women and the BBC is no more immune to this practice than the Daily Mail.