Despite a brief change in the format in 2015, this series of The Apprentice has started as so many others have: with teams split according to their gender. Lord Sugar says that this is done to help viewers engage with the show, so that they can tell which team a person belongs to. Fair enough, but wouldn’t any number of other signifiers – some kind of team uniform, for example – serve the purpose just as well?
Ratings might ultimately rule in this case, but if television is art and art imitates life, shouldn’t we be seeing that reflected in the show?
Instead, by dividing the teams into ‘boys vs girls’ The Apprentice continues to propagate the idea that women in the business world are separate, different, other. And, just like it does away from the cameras, it impacts the way the candidates behave.
Each year that the contestants are separated by gender, the women are criticised for being too competitive with each other; usually in language specially reserved for women – catty, bitchy or feisty.
This year was no different; the girls team lost to the boys because they couldn’t get past the bickering. The general consensus seems to be that the women act this way because of a genetic predisposition. That, somehow, being female makes you more argumentative. Men, of course, are famously not competitive so that must be it.
Oh, hang on. Maybe not.
Women are not used to finding themselves amongst other women in the boardroom. Of the top roles within the FTSE 250 companies, just 6.4% are occupied by women. The reality is that the female candidates know – consciously or not – that if space is made for one of their counterparts, that’s one less for them to take. And there are so few to begin with.
The Apprentice show runners would likely argue that by hiring an equal number of men and women, they are promoting gender balance. However, with diversity must come inclusion and this is where the show falls short.
It’s been proven time and again that diverse teams are better for business, it’s high time The Apprentice caught up.