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Was there a glass ceiling on 'The Apprentice'?

Women candidates called emotional while male counterparts described as aggressive
/ Source: staff and news service reports

What happened to the women of "The Apprentice"?

Despite beating the men during the first four challenges, the last two contestants standing on the NBC reality show "The Apprentice" are men. Bill Rancic and Kwame Jackson are vying for the top job.

‘The Apprentice’ began with two teams, men vs. women. However, since the teams were reshuffled, a woman was fired in every episode but one. Is the reality show reflecting a reality for women in the workforce?

On an April 7 appearance on MSNBC's "Scarborough Country," Katrina Campins and Ereka Vetrini both said yes. Campins said that she and Vetrini were categorized as “emotional,” while men were described as “aggressive.” 

“If men are aggressive, they are seen as being tough businessmen,” said Campins. “If women are aggressive, we were labeled as emotional and we were fired because of it. A perfect example is, Ereka got criticized for not bringing me into the boardroom, but Troy and Kwame never brought each other in the boardroom until the last episode [where Troy was fired].”

Much has also been made of the women’s use of their sexuality in negotiating. Carolyn Kepcher, one of Donald Trump’s advisers, said on "Deborah Norville Tonight": “Early on, we had comments about the women and the way they dressed. Particularly my comments, I suppose.  I think reality states that using sexuality in the workplace is only going to get you so far. And I think that's exactly what happened.”

The female contestants don’t deny they used their charms. Amy Henry, the last female to be fired, defended this, saying the women used everything they had — their brains and their sexuality included.

“I think when it comes to women, people tend to call using their charms, ‘using their sexuality.’ Men do the same thing, and people call it ‘politicking’ or ‘networking,’” she said.

Some observers point out that Henry, the last female contestant, was fired more subjectively: Trump’s advisers disliked her personality despite her strong track record. Trump's advisers conducted a round of interviews with four contestants, and in their recommendations, they called Henry “irritating,” and like a “Stepford wife.”

Two Sundays ago, USA Today published an column on how the "The Apprentice" “exposes the reality of glass ceiling.” It was written by Irma Herrera, the executive director of a civil rights organization. “They [the women] appear to have been criticized no matter what they tried,” she writes.

Is Herrera right? Does "The Apprentice" reflect a glass ceiling?

Contestant Sam Solovey says no. “I don‘t think there's a glass ceiling,” he said. “I actually think that [the female contestants] have an extreme advantage over me in corporate America. An attractive woman has an advantage. And as they succeed in the workplace and as they escalate up the ladder, they do very well. I think what happens is, they get to the very high levels, a board room setting, as you have seen on the show, they tend to self-destruct.”

Indeed, there seemed to be more in-fighting among the women. This may be pure coincidence since Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth seemed to rub many of her fellow contestants the wrong way. However, it also appeared that the women didn’t look out for one another: When the project managers were women, they often brought along other women to the board room to be considered for firing.

Sheila Wellington, a professor at the NYU Stern School of Business who teaches the course “Women in Business Leadership,” said that while the hit reality show emphasizes team work and ambition, "The Apprentice" isn’t realistic.

“When I surveyed my students, what they said was, ‘not at all realistic.’ Women generally don’t look like that. They certainly don’t dress like that in the business world. And they certainly don’t use their sexuality like that,” Wellington said.

In the post-show press run, women were treated differently from men. Playboy offered four woman $250,000 to pose for the magazine, which they turned down. They did pose, for free, for men’s magazine FHM (For Him Magazine).  Wellington called it “career suicide” and said that this isn’t going to help them with their corporate careers.

Just how much realism is in the reality show can be — and often is — debated. But it can also be argued that Jackson and Rancic are the last contestants standing because they were the best, not because they were men. Of the entire process, Trump’s adviser George Ross said, “It really wasn‘t a question of if somebody was going to be fired. It was really a question of when.”