Women are groped and harassed inside men-only fundraiser

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Emily Reynolds
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The Presidents Club Charity Dinner is meant to be a way of raising money for good causes. But an investigation from an undercover reporter at the Financial Times found a culture of harassment and misogyny.

Hostesses at a secretive men-only charity dinner were groped, propositioned and sexually harassed, an investigation from the Financial Times has found. 

Women employed as hostesses were “told to wear skimpy black outfits with matching underwear and high heels,” journalist Madison Marriage reported; at an after-party, many “were groped, sexually harassed and propositioned”. 

The Presidents Club Charity Dinner is attended by leading figures in business and politics; this year, FTSE 100 businesses such as WPP, Frogmore and CMC Markets hosted tables at the event. Philip Green, Dragons’ Den star Peter Jones and Tim Steiner, CEO at Ocado, all attended the event. WPP has since dropped the event. 

Women were asked to bring “BLACK sexy shoes” and black underwear and had to meet a criteria of being “tall, thin and pretty”. They were paid £150 for the night. 

One hostess reported “being repeatedly fondled on her bottom, hips, stomach and legs”. “One guest lunged at her to kiss her,” Marriage reports. “Another invited her upstairs to his room”. 

And one society figure (who the FT could not identify) told a hostess that she looked “far too sober”. 

“Filling her glass with champagne, he grabbed her by the waist, pulled her in against his stomach and declared: ‘I want you to down that glass, rip off your knickers and dance on that table’,” Marriage writes. 

The auction in the fundraising segment of the event were also problematic: lots included “a night at Soho’s Windmill strip club and a course of plastic surgery with the invitation to ‘add spice to your wife’”.

Many have been outraged by the report. 

Female MPs have already condemned the event. Maria Miller, chair of the Women and Equalities Commission, said that British business needed to “take a long hard look at itself”. “How seriously is business taking equality at work if they are still using men-only events for entertainment?” she said in a statement. 

“If business leaders are simply paying lip service to equality issues then perhaps it’s time the government gives the Equality Act some real teeth?”

And Jo Swinson, deputy leader of the Lib Dems, said that “time’s up on this crap”. “More than 300 rich businessmen were perfectly happy to attend such an event, which shows the rotten, sexist culture still alive and kicking in parts of the business community.” Women’s Equality Party leader Sophie Walker called the event a “grotesque circus of sleazy rich  men pawing at young women”. 

“Those who are worried that women’s confrontation of sexual harassment has gone too far and turned into a ‘witch hunt’, look no further.”

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