Last Night’s Episode Of The Apprentice Caused An Almighty Row About Sexism

The situation will be depressingly familiar to anyone woman who has worked in an office.

Last Night's Episode Of The Apprentice Caused An Almighty Row About Sexism

by Rebecca Reid |
Updated on

If you're not currently watching The Apprentice then get thee to BBC iPlayer and start streaming because not only is it gloriously satisfactory to watch, it's also a surprisingly accurate state-of-the-nation bulletin about how sexism functions in modern society.

Last night (there are going to be some spoilers here, sorry) the teams were mixed up because the male team had lost two weeks in a row and therefore didn't have enough members. This mix-up is always an exciting moment because it's also when they pick a team name. Disappointingly, yesterday they went for the quite sensible team teams of Empower and Unison.

Anyway, the mix-up prompted a fascinating situation when one team - Unison - filled with women who'd won the previous tasks, was headed by a man who had lost the previous week. The sub team leader was also a man who had lost the previous week.

There is a confidence gap between men and women which is perfectly exemplified by the fact that two male Apprentice candidates who have never won a task joined a team full of women who'd never lost a task, and appointed themselves the bosses.

On the other side, the team leader (or PM as they insist on calling themselves) was Pamela Laird who, quite sensibly opted to run the task and appoint a female staff member who she had previously worked with and who had a track record of winning as her deputy. 'It has to be a girl,' she quipped, discussing the choice.

The most obvious explanation for this was that the all-female team had won the previous two tasks and therefore had a better track record. Now I'm not a multi-million dollar genius who's going to give 110% of 10000%, but to me it seems obvious that if you're picking someone to charge with responsibility, picking someone who has a history of winning would seem like a sensible choice.

After Laird's comment about wanting a female deputy, all-Twitter-hell broke loose. Laird's mentions are a stream of people accusing her of 'sexism' because she wanted to appoint a female deputy. People who had never tweeted about sexism before in their lives suddenly bombarded her with messages, so much so that Lewis, the male candidate she'd passed over, had to step in, to tell people that she wasn't sexist and ask them to leave her alone.

Laird's choice was probably based on the fact she'd worked with Jemelin Artigas previously and knew how to get the best out of her. But there might also have been an element of selection by gender because if you've watched The Apprentice before you'll know what so often happens when the teams are mixed.

Women who were powerful, outspoken and high-profile suddenly shrink. It's the exact same phenomenon which sees girls performing better insingle-sex schools and boys performing better when the genders are mixed.

No one on The Apprentice is lacking in confidence, including the women. But series after series has seen men riding roughshod over women, shouting louder and overruling them. So it's no wonder that Laird wanted to ringfence her authority.

It might be a silly television program, but when it comes to sexism, The Apprentice is a reflection of real life. Find me a woman in an office job who hasn't had a man turn up to a meeting where he's the least experienced person in the room and talk over his colleagues.

Whether or not reverse sexism exists is a complicated debate which needs to look beyond the idea of 'it's mean to base a decision on someone's gender' and to the very real power structures that oppress women, particularly in a work capacity.

In the end, the team captained by two women romped home to a convincing victory over the team where the two men who had lost both their previous tasks decided to be in charge.

Meet this year's candidates... (and read our judgements of them based on their clothes)


Apprentice Candidates 2019

Lottie Lion, apprentice1 of 16

Lottie Lion, 19

We say: Lottie Lion (best name in any series so far?) is a librarian, but looks like the kind of librarian you'd find in a teenage boy's imagination about what happens in a library, not an actual library. We're hoping that her practice in saying 'shhh' might make the 'girls' team more harmonious. Prediction: lots of comments from Lord Sugar about how book learning doesn't make you good in business, and literally thousands of book related puns. The Apprentice says: Lottie the librarian says she is 'very cut throat' and insists that she is no push over. She believes her poise and her 'powers of persuasion' are her greatest business qualities, noting that people with bad manners anger her and that she gets frustrated when things don't adhere to her high standards.

Shahin Hassan, 362 of 16

Shahin Hassan, 36

We say: Every series needs a Shahin. He'll call adult women 'girls' for the entire series, make a comment in the first episode about how the boys 'have to win' because they're 'the best' and then cry when things get tiring. Prediction: He'll offer to be project manager in week one and suggest that they call the time something like Supermagneticspaffbomb or Goldfinger. The Apprentice says: Chartered engineer Shahin credits Elon Musk as one of his role models because he 'thinks outside the box', a quality he prides himself in having and thinks that his imagination will make him stand out from the other candidates.

Iasha Masood, apprentice3 of 16

Iasha Masood, 27

We say: This is probably the best outfit anyone has ever worn on The Apprentice, which is disappointing because part of the fun is feeling sartorially superior to women wearing horse brooches and a jazzy scarf, or men who think that a bright blue suit and brown shoes is the high of chic. Prediction: We've got a feeling that Iasha might be slightly less of objectionable than your average contestant. We're calling top three right now. The Apprentice says: Iasha is an account manager who thinks her 'crazy, controversial, eccentric personality' will help her go far as she believes her 'natural persona' will help her win. But watch out for her enemies - Masood is not afraid of keeping her friends close but her enemies closer, and she says: 'I can read people just by looking at their body language, they won't realise it until it's too late – and checkmate'.

Souleyman Bath, apprentice4 of 16

Souleyman Bath, 20

We say: Disappointingly, Soleyman seems to actually be quite genuinely impressive. He's a para athlete which is just plain great. On the upside he's also a motivational speaker, so if we're really lucky he'll start saying things like 'I think outside the box. If I was an apple pie, the apples inside me would be oranges' (a classic from Alex, season 6). Prediction: semi finals at least, and a big row with the stupidest member of the 'boys' team in week one. The Apprentice says: Para athlete and motivational speaker Souleyman trains with the Great Britain Paralympic team as a sprinter, having been diagnosed with Retina Pigmentosa aged six. 'The less sight I have, the more imagination I gain, because what you see is what you see and what you don't see is when the magic begins,' he says.

Scarlett Allen-Horton, apprentice5 of 16

Scarlett Allen-Horton, 32

We say: We're very into this sheer bright green blouse, which has strong 'mean second wife who'd send you to boarding school the second she marries your dad' vibes. She says she doesn't like accepting help from other people, which is going to make an entirely team based competition interesting. Prediction: team mates can just about cope with her but she gets up Alan's nose and he cuts her in week six.The Apprentice says: Recruitment company owner Scarlett says that her upbeat personality means that people 'will often buy into her as a person,' but admits that she sometimes struggles to accept help from others. Could this cause fireworks in the show's infamous group tasks?

Carina Lepore, 306 of 16

Carina Lepore, 30

We say: Bow down to the year of the coloured trouser suit. Maybe she and Iasha can do a half and half thing and look like a refresher bar. Carina has done the fun and not at all annoying thing of pointing out her height (5"1) and describing herself as a pocket-rocket. Prediction: massive screaming row in week two and a Caesar stye backstabbing eviction in week 4. The Apprentice says: Carina owns an artisan bakery. She says she is a natural leader and that people latch onto her to benefit from the influence she carries. She believes it's 'written in the stars' that she'll be Lord Sugar's next Apprentice, describing herself as a 'pocket rocket' due to her height (5ft 1).

Marianne Rawlins7 of 16

Marianne Rawlins, 36

We say: Ah, the traditional American contestant who doesn't swear all the time or scream in people's faces. Also a member of the trouser suit club, Marianne looks like an actual grown up. Which unfortunately doesn't bode well in the Apprentice house. Prediction: Around week six we'll realise we've seen basically nothing from her, SurrAllan will accuse her of 'hiding' and she'll be toast. The Apprentice says: Marianne owns a risk management consultancy and moved from the US to the UK in 2017. She admits that she doesn't have a filter and may need to 'dial down her American-ness' and take a step back, as she says she can be too direct.

Lubna Farhan, apprentice8 of 16

Lubna Farhan, 33

We say: It's unclear whether she's wearing a dress with sleeves or a matching cardigan, but either way, we reckon Lubna is going to be hard as nails. In her bio she talks about being the 'whole package' which aren't words that a normal person would be capable of speaking. Prediction: she'll get close to being fired but will tell Lord Sugar that she had a hard childhood and he'll pretend not to care but be secretly moved. The Apprentice says: Finance manager Lubna says she believes she has the 'whole package' after turning herself into her own role model. A bookworm, the contestant describes herself as a 'dark horse', adding: 'I came from a council estate… I have made myself into something good and I'm on my way to becoming something great'.

Jemelin Artigas, 349 of 16

Jemelin Artigas, 34

We say: Jemelin gets the award for being the first person to misunderstand how percentages work and saying '1000%'. Prediction: will offer to be PM, lose control of the team because she doesn't want to be horrible and end up going home a moral victor but an actual loser. The Apprentice says: Network marketing consultant Jemelin claims she is '1000 percent committed' to winning every task but warns that she can be 'next-level stubborn' when it comes to getting her own way.

Thomas Skinner, 2810 of 16

Thomas Skinner, 28

We say: Thomas does actually run a proper business, which means that no one will listen to him for his entire time on the show. He gets kudos for being the first person to wear a checked suit in their PR pics though. Predictions: he'll offer to be PM for the complete wrong task and only avoid being fired by shouting 'Lord Sugar I've been working since I was three months old' in the boardroom. The Apprentice says: Pillow company owner Thomas started out in business aged 12, with a paper round, and later worked on the markets when he was 16. Since then he has set up his own pillow company, attributing his business success to his 'sharp', 'street wise' character.

Lewis Ellis apprentice11 of 16

Lewis Ellis, 28

We say: Lewis has the shiniest suit in the whole line up, therefore will probably be the loudest voice. He'll be a total nightmare in tasks but quite fun in the house, so everyone will say nice things about him if he gets sent home. Prediction: He'll boast about how he's never read a book. Hopefully to Lottie the Librarian. The Apprentice says: Lewis is a digital marketing project manager and describes himself as a 'maverick', who believes his competitiveness and determination will see him through the process. He adds: 'I may not be the smartest guy in the room, but I'll sure as hell work harder.'

Riyonn Farsad, 3012 of 16

Riyonn Farsad, 30

We say: Do not underestimate Riyonn. He's got a steely determination in his eye and he will definitely throw you under the bus. Prediction: he'll lay low for the first couple of weeks and then pounce on someone weak in the boardroom. Lord Sugar will tell him he's got a bobbins personality but not fire him. The Apprentice says: Events manager Riyonn invented his own card game which is part of his "little black book full of multi-million-pound ideas". He says his personality is his best asset, but won't let friends get in the way of coming out on top.

Kenna Ngoma13 of 16

Kenna Ngoma, 24

We say: Kenna makes alcoholic ice cream, so he obviously can't be all bad. He's gone for a burgundy suit which looks surprisingly great, and he used to play football for Man City, so honestly he seems quite cool. Prediction: he'll lay low for a few weeks, be made PM by Sugs and then win the task. Top three, we reckon. The Apprentice says: Before creating his alcohol-infused ice cream company in 2018, Kenna played semi-professional football for Manchester City before that was cut short by injury in 2013. Kenna believes he is enthusiastic with an "infectious personality", which he hopes will aid him to befriend the strongest candidates to help him build alliances.

Ryan-Mark Parsons14 of 16

Ryan-Mark Parsons

We say: Ryan-Mark (is the the only person in the UK whose name is Ryan-Mark?) is only 19, so even more of a baby than Dean. We wish him well but honestly just looking at this photo we can tell that Alan is going to hate everything about him. Prediction: gone by week three because he's got soft hands, wears man jewellery and Lord Sugar can't bring himself to look at him. The Apprentice says: Ryan-Mark is an award-winning public speaker who admires the Queen and describes himself as the "epitome of luxury". Despite believing his best asset to be his ability to "forge a connection with anyone" he adds: "I'm not afraid to be ruthless when it comes to the other candidates."

Dean Ahmed, 2015 of 16

Dean Ahmed, 20

We say: Dean is only 20, so of course he's going to be awful, because we are all awful aged 20. Only he's going to broadcast his awfulness all over telly in a smart blue suit. Oh Dean. Prediction: he'll say something sexist and be cancelled on Twitter, throw himself into every single task, offer to be PM each week and mostly be ignored by the other contestants. The Apprentice says: Dean founded his sports management agency aged 15 and believes he is 'the definition of an entrepreneur', with confidence and emotional intelligence that are "off the charts". He believes his 'gift of the gab' could 'persuade anyone to do anything'.

Pamela Laird16 of 16

Pamela Laird

We say: Pam runs a beauty brand and describes herself as charismatic. We're not sure if you're really supposed to call yourself that, but fair play for the confidence. Prediction: she'll get a whole seven quid off something on the shopping task by flirting and Karen will raise her eyebrows in judgement. The Apprentice says: Beauty brand owner Pamela describes herself as "feisty and passionate" with a charismatic personality, which enables her to excel in sales. She says: "I love to be the under-estimated person in the room."

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us