A Birmingham PR professional who was ejected from The Apprentice after just two weeks claims she was let down by former Birmingham City managing director Karren Brady.
Joy Stefanicki, who has worked for Crosby Homes and Deloitte in Birmingham, also said the hit BBC TV show hosted by Alan Sugar was a terrible advert for young professionals who were already experiencing their own “PR disaster”.
Ms Stefanicki was ousted after viewers saw her all-female group descend into a series of vicious cat-fights after they failed to sell a single unit of their product, a book holder for the beach.
She was fired after Lord Sugar claimed she had taken a back seat after she had apparently shied away from involving herself in the arguments – a view supported by sidekick Ms Brady.
But Ms Stefanicki denied taking a back seat and said she should have been backed for refusing to get involved in a shouting match.
She said: “I have lots of respect for what Karren has done, but after the second task I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed. She made such a big deal about everyone’s behaviour and how the group was representing women in business, then I end up getting fired, with Karren saying I hadn’t made myself heard.
“She watched everything that happened in the task. I know that I had participated – just not in all the madness – only for her to say that I didn’t participate, which was very disappointing.”
However, Ms Brady, who is now vice chairman of West Ham United, said she and fellow presenter Nick Hewer gave an honest account of what they saw. She said: “Both Nick and I make notes on all the candidates during the process. They are very detailed notes.”
It was previously suggested Ms Brady and Ms Stefanicki’s paths may have crossed when the ex-Blues chief withdrew from the Inspiring Leader competition at the Birmingham Young Professional of the Year awards after being arrested as part of an investigation into corruption in English football. No charges were ever brought.
At the time, Shoosmiths lawyer Alex Bishop, chair of the BYPY committee at organisers Birmingham Future, said Ms Brady had been given the option to continue or stand down, and had chosen the latter. Ms Stefanicki was a member of the BYPY committee at the time.
However, Ms Brady said she had never heard of Ms Stefanicki before The Apprentice.
Despite leaving the show early, Ms Stefanicki said she had no regrets about appearing and said it had helped her get back on her feet after being made redundant from her dream job as a marketing vice president for an American corporation in New York.
She said: “The best thing was probably when we were given the new tasks. It was great fun and really helped me rebuild my confidence after being made redundant.
"I know that may seem a strange thing to say after coming out of the show second but I know how much I participated in each of the tasks and the contribution I made, so I am happy with that.”
Ms Stefanicki, who is back at work at her marketing firm Joyous Communications, was appalled by the behaviour of fellow contestants – particularly the women – and felt The Apprentice was damaging the reputation of young professionals.
“The worst part was the bitchiness – it just never switched off,” she said. “Being fired on the second show was kind of embarrassing because it was they who behaved so appallingly.
“The professional sector is already going through a PR disaster with the economy and the behaviour of banks.
“People think certain professionals are cowboys already and there we are on the show just conforming to those values – there must be a better way for the young professionals to represent themselves.”