The Apprentice accused of 'erasing dark-skinned black businesswomen' in race row

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The Apprentice accused of
The Apprentice accused of 'erasing dark-skinned black businesswomen' in race row

The Apprentice has been criticised for its lack of darker skinned black contestants by a group of leading black British entrepreneurs.

Following the return of the hit BBC show for its 17th series, the owners of a successful Dragon's Den business have questioned why darker-skinned women are being erased from business-style TV shows.

It has been six years since a darker skinned businesswoman appeared on the show after digital marketing manager Joanna Jarjue made it to week 12 in 2017.

Natalie Duvall and Alison Burton, who secured a £50,000 investment from Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones on the 2022 series of Dragon's Den with their business March Muses, have suggested that the lack of darker skinned representation is not acceptable.

In a powerful Instagram post, the pair said that they were "saddened" to see this year's line-up.

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They wrote: "Why are Black female entrepreneurs being erased on shows like these? More specifically… darker skinned representation? Where are they? We know they apply and we know there are lots of show researchers who look for “talent” to fill these roles. So what happened this year on @apprenticeuk?

"Yes we know it’s just a TV show… but it has an impact, and why can’t we be a part of it? So many young people watch these shows and you can’t be what you can’t see."

Pointing out that they knew "hundreds of fantastic black female entrepreneurs who have succeeded without shows like these", they insist that they "shouldn't have to fight to be seen".

"We need equity, investment and to be in the boardroom," they continued. "@apprenticeuk 2023 is just a clear example of what is always happening in the corporate world. Black Women Erased!

The Apprentice accused of 'erasing dark-skinned black businesswomen' in race rowSimba Rwambiwa is the only black man in the current series (PA)
The Apprentice accused of 'erasing dark-skinned black businesswomen' in race rowRochelle Anthony calls herself the 'Kim Kardashian of business' (PA)

"As gatekeepers, @bbc need to do better."

Among this year's black and mixed race contestants include Simba Rwambiwa, a senior sales representative from Birmingham, and salon owner Rochelle Anthony from Bedfordshire.

However, Alison Burton told The Voice that she believes that the BBC needs to actively “search to make sure they are properly ticking a diversity box".

"I feel like with black women, they are using a BAME approach, and BAME is a term that I absolutely hate," she said.

"But when they use BAME they can get away with throwing a melting pot of people to tick that diversity box and that’s where we get the ambiguous heritage thrown in there and people will say ‘ok well she’s not white’ or if you have an Asian woman that ticks a box."

She further explained that while she believes that TV shows have sufficient representation for black men, there is a noticeable shortfall when it comes to black women.

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Alison continued: "It annoys me that for the men, the darker the berry the sweeter the juice, basically because they are fetishised and it’s that Idris, it’s that they can be whatever colour.

"But for the women, we have to always be the European beauty standard of what they want, that Kim Kardashian kind of exotic look and it doesn’t stop there."

The lack of representation has not gone unnoticed by fans, who took to Twitter to hit out at the show.

One tweeted: "1 black man out of 17 contestants on The apprentice, that is disgraceful."

While another questioned: "Why aren't Black women applying to be on The Apprentice anymore?"

A third wrote: "Not only is there no eye candy on The Apprentice this year, where are the black women?"

"I’ve noticed a lot of reality tv shows in todays time that claim to represent all people have no black women contestants/cast: Love is Blind, The Challenge, The Apprentice are some examples," another pointed out.

A BBC spokesperson told the Mirror: "We are really proud of the black female entrepreneurs that have been on Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice and who have gone on to achieve great success as business leaders.

"Both shows are committed to ensuring we represent the brilliant diversity of our audiences, and the nuances of their experience(s) in business. We strive to do this not only through our selection of entrepreneurs on Dragons’ Den but also with those business owners and professionals who feature on The Apprentice.

"On both of these shows we make active efforts to reach a wide range of black women in business as we know the valuable contribution they make to the UK and global economy, and we are pleased with the diverse range of contestants who have taken part across both series and the contribution they make to the success of those shows.

"However, as always, we will continue to make active efforts to ensure Black Women join Lord Sugar in the boardroom, and can pitch to The Dragons, as we always want to continue to authentically reflect our audiences."

Rose Hill

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