Karren Brady, the managing director of Birmingham City, explaining why women wear the trousers now, was quoted last week as saying: « The women who did so well on The Apprentice are further evidence that we not only do better in exams … Maybe men really will become extinct ». Now it is understandable that Mrs Brady may be a tad distracted, given that her elegant collar has been felt a couple of times by officers from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, whose investigations into conspiracy to defraud and false accounting are described as ongoing.
However, can she really believe that the women on The Apprentice provide evidence that women will do better in business ? Let us review the lady apprentices from the current series: Anita – a qualified lawyer and « business strategist » (whatever that is). Forehead like an old-fashioned number 9. Also hopes to complete a chick-lit novel and launch her own business providing emotional, psychological and spiritual therapy.
Despite this plethora of talents, she was unable to understand that when you are given a budget, the objective is not really to spend all of it, but to « keep the bloody costs down ». Paula – a human resources consultant. Fired for making a
The self-proclaimed « rough tough cream puff » made a complete hash of, ironically, a marketing task, first with the suicidal decision to advertise breakfast cereal with the completely bizarre Pants Man, then by running out of time to prepare more than one side of the box. Did herself no favours in the board room by scrunching up her face and shrieking like a demented munchkin. Mona – aptly named senior business manager. Never got behind her team’s plan to re-brand Margate for the gay market, instead suggesting the smallest re-brand of all time – the family market.
Refused to believe that there were any gays in Kent and missed some obvious slogans: Wish You Were Queer, Glad To Be Margay, All The Fun Of The Fairy, Suck My Rock, etc. Lorraine – a national accounts manager and the only single mum in the country. Believed that she had a special skill, but did not use it to find the word to describe this great asset (intuition). Mystic Meg also failed to notice that she had lied on her CV about the time spent at her current job, though it probably « felt » longer.
Debra – a senior sales consultant. Although she possesses a face that looks like it was crayoned in by a 5 year old, by far the most unpleasant (female) candidate. A very scary, shouty lady who was roundly savaged in the references that she herself had provided: « people either love her or hate her. Most people hate her ». Kate – a licensing development manager. Fell at the final hurdle, which is appropriate, as her constant toothy grin made me feel like feeding her a sugar lump.
Seemed to be assured of victory until she showed some desperately poor judgment by getting cosy with Philip, the complete cock of a non-selling salesman, then launching into air guitar on the shopping channel like your aunt at a wedding, sprinting towards the dance floor as she hears the first gruesome notes of « Dancing Queen ». Yasmina – a restaurateur. The Finance Director who does not know the difference between gross and net profit. The entrepreneur who launched a restaurant funded entirely by her mother (who had to re-mortgage her house).
The team leader who insisted her team call her « Chef », while she slopped tomatoes over discus-sized bruschetta. The one who continually told us that business is a simple formula, make more than you spend (really ? ), then helped screw up the pricing of the sandalwood soap. The one who stuttered and gurned her way through the shopping channel test. The one who delivered a pitch as embarrassing as the new Wembley. The winner. Obviously. Maybe these wannabe’s were inspired by the original exponents of girl power, our very own Spice Girls, who told us in their seminal hit, er, « Wanna Be » what girls really, really want.
Apparently, they want to « zigazig ha ». Seriously, it is clear that women are just as capable as men at managing organisations (equally good or indeed equally bad) and the male candidates on The Apprentice were, if anything, even worse. A personal favourite of mine is Anne Mulcahy, who lead the transformation and turnaround at Xerox. A 25 year veteran, when she was interviewed by the ubiquitous, kerb-crawling consultants in a bid to identify the company’s culture, her response was, « You’re looking at it ». You go, girl.