The Apprentice strikes again. The long-running business-focused reality show came back onto our screens a month ago, with a fresh line-up of contestants ready to make fools of themselves.
This week, I took the opportunity to watch the filming of You’re Fired – ideally timed for an explosive episode.
It’s our annual overseas jaunt and the candidates (well, Luisa) bounce and shriek at the news that their destination is Dubai. Our project managers are Myles, the oldest candidate standing at a ripe 39 years old (now that the 41 year old Jaz has been fired), and Zeeshaan, The One That’s Lived in Dubai. The women are slowly becoming outnumbered, being 3 out of the 4 fired contestants.
The episode has its usual twists and turns, with personalities shifting as people stake their claim as the Candidate Most Likely to Succeed. While Myles becomes the PM of Evolve, it’s Leah that steals the show, trying to become the PM of Endeavour. Despite her vocal opposition, Zee wins the job, due to his expert knowledge of the city.
I used to like Leah, but this time she grated on my nerves. It’s been a topic recently brought to the forefront: shows like this support the perception that businesswomen only get ahead through the most negative of behaviours. I used to have respect for Leah, but her attitude has put me right off. PM Zee came up with a strategy, and she blatantly ignored it in favour of doing her own thing. That’s not team work. That’s not good business. That’s sheer arrogance and hubris, and not much else.
But this episode isn’t about Leah. No, it’s about Natalie, who sat in the car, asking to help yet being continually rebuffed by PM Zee. Her shining moment of glory comes in the boardroom when she faces him head on and accuses him of being chauvinistic and biased against women.
Now, I know that this stuff is edited. I know that Natalie actually did the negotiations for the original flag – but that bit was cut out and only the part with Zee negotiating for the two flags was shown. I am almost certain that the episode was edited to display him in a certain way after she had that outburst in the boardroom.
Regardless of what really happened in Dubai, it’s a situation that many women face on a daily basis. This is one of the fundamental criticisms of quotas on boards, because if you enforce token women, then they will be marginalised and that type of behavior will only grow, not lessen. Appointing women on merit means that they have earned the respect of their peers and will be treated as part of the team. I’m not saying I agree with this line of thinking, but I see where it’s coming from.
Natalie was fortunate to be able to express her frustration in the boardroom, but most women aren’t able to express their rage due to the inevitable career suicide it would be. Things like legal action are only possible if you intend never to work in the sector again – not exactly compatible with the high-flyer’s ten year plan.
So what’s a girl to do? It seems drastic, but the best thing is to leave. Don’t support a bad environment, and certainly don’t rely on it for your livelihood. Dig up those principles and morals buried deep inside. Find another job, work hard and gain respect, and then use your power to instill the values that you believe in. Create a networking group. Get involved in diversity training. Hire people that share your values. Speak out when it’s appropriate. Work for managers that you have respect for.
If those things simply aren’t possible in your industry, then think again. It’s not all possible, sure, but as Gandhi said, be the change that you want to see. I’m not interested in moaning: show me action.