Female candidates on The Apprentice have been criticised for representing women in business badly after last week's episode of the reality show made the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
In an episode which saw contestants attempt to design and market a beach-themed product, the show's female contestants were seen bickering and fighting throughout - something which undoubtedly contributed to them losing the task and being called into the boardroom to answer to Alan Sugar.
From the moment we saw footage of the all-female group sniping at each other while attempting to come up with initial product ideas, it was obvious that things weren't going to run smoothly and before long, project manager Laura Moore was in tears, claiming that she couldn't handle her team.
Despite her obvious anger at their behaviour, her fellow contestants continued to ramp up the nastiness, resulting in complete mayhem as they argued about how was responsible for the team's overall failure.
After watching the drama unfold, Lord Sugar's assistant Karren Brady stepped in to criticise the way the women were acting.
"Can I just say something? You are representing businesswomen today and I have to say that it is outrageous the way that you are behaving," she said.
"70% of my management team are women and I've never come across anything like this."
Brady was right of course - the rudeness of the contestants and their inability to respect or listen to one another made me realise immediately that in the days following the show's broadcast, commentators and newspapers would be bound to hold them up as a shining example of why female bosses are a nightmare to work for, or why women are naturally 'catty' in the workplace.
I haven't been disappointed. Liz Jones has done it, using words such as 'bitching' and 'backstabbing' for extra emphasis and proclaiming that:
"We are never going to get out of this recession if this is the best British womanhood has to offer."
She's not the only one - a brief search for news stories and blog posts about last week's episode threw up much talk of women 'letting the side down' and 'catfights'.
It's depressing because on one hand I was appalled by the contestants' behaviour, but on the other I knew the backlash against businesswomen was bound to happen and how unfair it would be.
I may not have risen as far up the career ladder as these women but I'm pretty aware of basic etiquette when it comes to talking over people and letting people have a say in decision-making. The difference between being assertive and being aggressive, you might say. But then again, I don't work in a particularly pressured environment and the show puts the contestants into extremely stressful situations.
The fact is though, when male contestants on the show act like complete losers – which they frequently do, they're not seen as representing all businessmen. Their behaviour doesn't prompt a rash of articles on why men are just so awful to work for and why they're setting a bad example to young men who want to ‘make it’.
The reaction of the public to the antics of the female Apprentice contestants underlined very clearly just how, as women, we face particular challenges when aiming for influence and power in any sphere. Very often, our actions will be held up as symptomatic of the behaviour of all women.
Most of us have probably had to deal with an unpleasant male boss at some point, but it's female executives who are usually painted as evil and scheming, the sort of people nobody wants to work for.
Since the recession hit, there has been much talk of making boardrooms more inclusive and even imposing quotas to make sure women are equally represented. Some people are vocally opposed to such actions and last week’s show is likely to add more fuel to the fire in this respect.
Interestingly, the only female contestant not part of the “girls’ team” was put in charge of the “boys’ team” and excelled as project manager. Stella English was praised by her team, who had no problems with her leadership.
Unfortunately, the male contestants did decide that as the sole woman in the group, she should don beachwear to advertise their product, resulting in a particularly uncomfortable scene where they urged her to ‘take one for the team’ and wear a bikini – as they smirked and sniggered. Some things never change.