Apprentice Required: Serious Business Women Need Not Apply

The Apprentice is back and I’m already gnashing my teeth at the display put on by the candidates. Once again, we’re “treated” to a team of men who spout cliché after cliché with little to back up their posturing and a group of women who … well time will tell. At the time of writing, only one of the women has got any real airtime in the programme and she managed to take the feminist cause back 50 years or so with her comments. No doubt, before long we will see the behaviour usually associated with women on The Apprentice – bitching, arguing, back-biting …


Are these really the best they can come up with? Is the Beeb seriously trying to suggest that these are best example of business women they can find. Or is it more a case that serious candidates for The Apprentice either do not apply or don’t make it through the selection process, discarded in favour of those believed to make good TV.  Note to editor: watching women bitching and arguing in this manner does not make good TV.

The Apprentice is an odd programme. Ostensibly about finding the a great new business mind, it started life as a programme hunting for an apprentice to Alan Sugar.  Winners, however, did not get to work with Sugar, (one going as far as to sue him, saying there was no job for her at all). And none of the winners went on to achieve very much (maybe because they were stuck seeing out a year-long contract with Sugar’s company, whilst the runners-up made the most of the media frenzy. By the time the winners were unleashed on the world, the next round of candidates were upon us and the media had moved on.

Then the format changed – no longer looking for an “apprentice”, Sugar was now looking for someone with a business idea he could invest in. This seems to have gone better – the winners of this format are doing well, and Sugar still speaks highly of them in the media (which is more than can be said for many of his previous candidates).


One thing that hasn’t changed about The Apprentice is the format of the selection process. Each week, the candidates must complete a task, competing in teams to perform as well as they can; the winning team get pampered in some way or other, the losing team turn on each other, picking off the weak members of the herd.

But why? What does it prove? The tasks concentrate on sales, marketing and organisation, but they are not difficult tasks – sell hot dogs at lunch time, buy and sell on a market (and by they way, they don’t have to source their stock!). These are not tasks that prove a sharp business mind, they are things that thousands of people all over the country do every day.

The candidates often have high-powered job titles, and like to think themselves as pretty invincible in the world of business. They are there to start their own business – more often than not product or service based – and yet very few of them can do the most basic of tasks for this kind of business.

It becomes more and more obvious that they are selected for the programme, not on their suitability for the role, but for the inevitable gaffs they will make and guff they will spout. I’m sick of it. Is it too much to ask that people who know what they are doing are given a spot? That instead of women who think you have to be a bitch or a whore to make it in the business world, those spots are given to some of the very many brilliant female entrepreneurs in this country? I know a lot of women in business. I know a lot of successful women in business. Not one of them behaves like the female candidates on The Apprentice – I’ve never met one that does. So why, every year, does Sugar fill his boardroom with bitches and bimbos? Come on! Ditch the stereotypes. Please.


And whilst you’re at it, ditch the candidates that are just out to get their face on telly. Ditch the ones who think the sun shines out of their bum, and recruit some business people – look for those who are building their business, not claiming to take over the world, but building something sustainable. Good business people are not only found in the multimillion pound international companies; they are also found in the sustainable, grassroots businesses run from spare rooms, shared offices, market stalls …. these are the people who could ace the tasks on The Apprentice every time.

And don’t get me started on Lord Sugar ….

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2 comments on “Apprentice Required: Serious Business Women Need Not Apply

  1. Wow, I am so glad that you write this and I hope it gets the BBC’s attention. I mean, it is possible to construe the show as an intense training course, because as you point out most of these “business people” have never done some of the basic business strategy tasks. However, it is certainly not portrayed as having contestants with potential and offering them a chance to be great: they’re supposed to be great already. I’d love to see more on gendered programming and perhaps a response from the show on this if you sent it to them?

  2. I love the apprentice and take it for what it is, it’s just another reality show, although there are a lot of business people who are cocky and arogant, but un like most of the candidates atleast they have some brains behind them!

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