If The Apprentice is anything to go by, it looks like women have more than glass ceilings to contend with in the world of business

The hotly anticipated new series of The Apprentice has begun, and I happened to watch last week’s episode of after a day of NUS women’s officer training.

This series, like every series of The Apprentice, began with Lord Alan Sugar dividing his business protégé’s into two teams- male and female.  But in the second episode of the series, 30 year old Stella English was plucked from the all-female team and instructed to project manage to all male team, who’d lost one of their members due to a family emergency. So far, nothing objectionable to report.

Up to a point, everything in Stella’s team ran smoothly. Together the team designed a beach towel with a cooling compartment pillow attached to it.

As required, the team needed an advertisement for their product. Chris Bates conjured up the ingeniously sexist idea of the team’s female project manager modelling the product for them, instead of hiring a professional model.

His colleagues all laughed, and Christopher Farrell grinned ‘I’d like to see that!’

Upon asking Stella, she made a face and expressed that she wasn’t too keen in taking her clothes off for the competition.

‘If I’m put in to that position, I’ll effectively be a model, and I’m supposed to be leading you guys’ she opposed.

Stella didn’t think it was feasible, and declined. However, that didn’t stop Christopher Farrell, Chris Bates and Alex Epstein heading to the shops despite that fact, and commencing the search for the perfect bikini. They wanted a red bikini for Stella. A red bikini with tassels on it.

This stunt wasn’t about saving money. It was about deliberately undermining a female project manager in a position of authority. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that if Farrell, Bates and Epstein had had a male project manager, they wouldn’t have asked him to strip down to his boxers for the sake of the competition. If Stella had volunteered herself it would have been a completely different situation – but she hadn’t. She’d expressed the fact that she was uncomfortable with the idea, but her male colleagues ignored her protests.

Once they’d paid for the swimsuit, the men consulted each other, seeking confirmation that they were all happy with the tankini they’d eventually chosen. They were, but Stella had zero input- in fact, she wasn’t even aware that they were choosing a skimpy outfit for her, ultimately against her will.

In the end, Stella took her clothes off because the men pressured her into it, and she wanted the team to win.

Popular television shows like The Apprentice aren’t the most accurate measure of gender equality in the business world, but the fact that this happened to Stella is just another depressing knife in the back of feminism. She was chosen for the television show on merit, like all the other contestants. Lord Sugar asked her to project manage the men’s team because he thought she’d do a good job.  But the men she managed refused to take her seriously, and undermined her authority. Any spectator could see that Stella’s colleagues derived a certain pleasure from Stella’s reluctant stance, and the fact that they pressed on with the decision without her consent proves this. They insulted her intelligence by reducing her project manager position into a mass of curves and limbs, and asked her to strip down and subject herself to objectification for the good of the cause. They attempted to make her feel guilty when she didn’t submit to their will. That just isn’t fair.

Video clip can be found here- http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00bk8x6