Hostesses sexually harassed at all-male President’s Club charity dinner
The President’s Club has come under scrutiny following the appalling behaviour of a number of the donors in attendance at the annual charity dinner on thursday night. Two undercover journalists working at the event reported in the Financial Times that the all-male dinner was rife with incidents of groping, sexual harassment and propositioning.
Up for grabs at the event were illustrious prizes such as lunch with Boris Johnson, afternoon tea with Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, and plastic surgery to ‘add spice to your wife’.
The dinner was attended by some of the UK’s top businessmen, politicians and financiers. Hostesses reported repeated incidents of guests slipping hands up the short skirts that staff were instructed to wear. One hostess told of a guest exposing his penis to her. Whilst others dodged attempted kisses and were forced to politely decline invitations to find a room with guests.
The brief for hostesses was simple, ‘tall, thin and pretty’. They were instructed to sign a non-disclosure. To dressy sexily and actively encouraged to drink both before and whilst working. One of the undercover reporters working at the event, Madison Marriage, said she herself was groped several times. Marriage told BBC Newsnight “It’s a hands up skirts, hands on bums but also hands on hips, hands on stomachs, arms going round your waist unexpectedly”.
Katie Elin-Salt commented on twitter:
When I first moved to London as a working class freelancer starting out this is exactly the sort of bullshit I was expected to tolerate in hopes of making rent. The climate that allows this to happen is disgraceful as are all men involved. https://t.co/hGb1jABjOj
— Katie Elin-Salt (@KatieElinSalt) January 24, 2018
Founding leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Sophie Walker had this to say:
For the idiots claiming #PresidentsClub women were there by choice: what luxury & privilege to be able to argue contrarian view. Women don't choose to be objectified, harassed and paid less for jobs men define/don't want. Our 'choices' are shaped daily by the limits placed on us.
— Sophie Walker (@SophieRunning) January 24, 2018
On CharityConnect Simon Beresford added to the debate his own personal experience garnered from years working as a fundraising professional:
“I have seen wealthy men feel, because they are supporting a charity, they somehow have the right to ‘flirt’ with the female workers of a charity, I have seen them make inappropriate comments and suggestions, I have seen them try and put their arm around female charity workers, try to kiss them…
And I have seen those female colleagues, and senior managers, turn a blind eye to it all because these were donors, major givers, representatives from important corporate partners, and these were important events with large fundraising targets contributing to important charitable work.”
The charity sector has been called on to stand up to donors demonstrating any inappropriate behaviour.
Director-General of CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn stated:
If even half of what’s been written about this event is true, it is deplorable. We want our young women to feel confident and respected in all walks of life. We can and must do better than this. #PresidentsClub.
— Carolyn Fairbairn (@cbicarolyn) January 24, 2018
Over the course of their 33-year history, the event has raised over £20 million for charity. This year alone £2 million was raised for Great Ormond Street Hospital.
GOSH responded on twitter and announced that they will not be accepting any donations made the President’s Club:
The GOSH Charity official response to reports today around the Presidents Club Charitable Trust. pic.twitter.com/rTpM1Kb8Qt
— GOSH (@GreatOrmondSt) January 24, 2018
Sponsors WPP have officially withdrawn their support for future events. One of the organisers of the event, David Miller, has quit his post on the board of the Department for Education.
The scandal comes in the midst of the #Time’sUp movement. Sexual harassment is repeatedly being called out in various groups and institutions. The charity sector must now address tough questions about the behaviour of certain donors and the way in which money is raised. Charities will rightly want to prevent such actions happening at events raising money in their names. The question now is how to ensure that the events at the President’s Club dinner are not repeated.
— NCVO (@NCVO) January 24, 2018
The Charity Commission for England and Wales have released at a statement that they will be looking into the matter and will be contacting the President’s Club Charitable Trust:
— Charity Commission (@ChtyCommission) January 24, 2018
The accusations have shed light on institutionalised harassment that exists within the business community as well as at a portion of charitable fundraisers. Labour MP Jess Phillips called on the establishment to condemn the behaviour, “This is a horrendous example of rich men acting with disgusting entitlement. It cannot just be me calling it out, let’s hear from the establishment, the Conservatives, business, that this is disgusting and not in their name.”
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