The Apprentice: Sexism in Business

Apprentice candidate Siobhan Smith is under fire after appearing to suggest that only attractive women should sell to male customers. On last night’s episode, the first in the new series, the teams were set a burger task.

While discussing their strategy for the task, Siobhan, who was on the women’s team, said: “Our customers in Canary Wharf are going to be male dominated area so it’s something you need to take into consideration when you choose who you want to be selling the burgers. So it’s gotta be attractive to him as well to want to buy it”

Lord Sugar’s right-hand woman Karren Brady, who was observing the women’s team, immediately picked up on this, asking: “What do you mean about attractive?” to which Siobhan appeared to backtrack by saying it would be a problem if people were shy in dealing with men, a comment that Brady immediately shot down.


Emma O’Leary is an employment law consultant for the ELAS Group.

She says:

“To focus on a woman’s appearance rather than her skills, abilities and experience is a very outdated and backward way of thinking and should certainly not be adopted in any workplace. It’s clear that there is still a sexist attitude in some circles when it comes to women in the workplace. A recent parliamentary investigation into workplace dress codes exposed some shocking examples of discrimination. To hear a comment like this being made by a woman in a high profile ‘recruitment’ process is disappointing to say the least.

“It demonstrates that those sexist ideals are still entrenched. The Government has taken steps to address this by introducing gender pay reporting, and those that have so far produced their reports have demonstrated that a gap does exist. The requirement to publish the reports means these organisations should recognise that they have an issue and take steps to eradicate pay differences between men and women. However, there is only so much legislation can do as that will not alter mind sets like this and Karren Brady was absolutely right to call her out on it.”

In an interview with the Radio Times, Karren Brady said: “I insisted on equality when I negotiated my contract. I would not have allowed anything else. I’m totally a feminist in that I want equality – not more but not less.”

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