Posted by: ginalazenby | June 3, 2009

Women in The Apprentice final – at home with ruthless business?

apprentice imageI watched The Apprentice tonight which I rarely do. I have not been following it but was surprised to see the semi-final line-up was four women and one man. This is a hugely popular TV show which has done a great deal to get more people interested in business and entrepreneurship, although working in Sir Alan’s corporation is not exactly being an entrepreneur but you’d get to learn from one. What dismays me about this show is the strong, negative language which is encouraged (and probably stage-managed) which does not reflect true life. It certainly does not show the new world of work, one I believe is more sustainable for the future. I don’t believe Sir Alan is a great role model for business and these women are getting caught up in a game which is just going to make them … well, men.

Much of the language was about being ruthless and saying things like ” success is more important to me than being popular … there are no loyalties in the boardroom, it’s not about being friends“. As we move in to a future which is much more about relationships and collaboration, and where social skills and emotional intelligence will be highly prized, then encouraging this kind of behavour is short-sighted and damaging. Who wants to work in a business where “you have to learn the lesson that when you are in front of the firing squad you are on your own”? I think it is wrong to keep on creating environments where young women are led to believe that this kind of ruthless, military, war-like thinking is the way to run a business. Not any more. “No matter what, we are here to win … friendship does not matter, we are here for one reason”.

The programme started with the final five then ended up with just two women – the first all-female final. Both have great confidence and skills, way more than I had at their age, but one, Debra, is certainly disadvantaged by her legacy of treading on people and making enemies. She is an imposing 23 year old who at 6 feet tall is described as ‘being seven feet tall with her mouth open’ and ‘an eight-foot monster’. I worry if she becomes a true role model for young women wanting to emulate her success as she seems to have left a trail of destruction in her wake alongside her legacy of top sales achievements. It is a high price to pay to have almost universal dislike when you say you are “just trying to do your best” and have “no fear getting what you want”. I’d rather come second with my relationships in tact.

Why is it that we project the win-lose mentality that we have to destroy something of ourselves to get the best results. I am committing to a brighter more successful future for me in all my business endeavours and I hope to keep my communities and important relationships alive along the way.

Daily Telegraph column“The choice of two young, pretty wannabes in tonight’s final does not prove anything other than the fact that women are still judged, first and foremost, on their youth and their beauty.”

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