The Presidents Club ball narrative, fittingly, is still high on the news agenda. Hourly, we hear many correctly de-cry the event as appalling, shameful, disgusting and deplorable. Great Ormond Street Hospital, which received £530,000 from the Presidents Club between 2009 and 2016, said it will return the donations. The “most read” story in The Financial Times’ online history has prompted apoplectic reactions in the media, the business world and on social media, where #PresidentsClub topped the trends on Twitter. Social and professional shaming might work up to a point, but rich and powerful men are involved. They will fight to protect their freedoms.
Sadly, there will nevertheless be a hard core, who will staunchly refuse to accept wrong-doing. Those who hide behind the corporate charity fig-leaf to explain high spirits, the frat-boy, boozy Belushi iconography is a notion well past its sell by date.
The thought of attending an all-male event populated by businessmen, sales directors, property industry tycoons, bankers, and politicians sounds as much fun as a colonoscopy. Nevertheless, we must ensure the noise in the mainstream and social media does not fade and dissipate. This must not be just a week-long conversation blown away by an incoming fail that feeds the news channels, In six months time, this event must remain part of the national conversation.
This is a high-water mark for society and particularly, the charity hospitality and events industry, I hope the fallout will extinguish this testosterone-fuelled conduct for ever. Again, the thrusting egos that attend the function are more focused on doing all the wrong things really well. Anyone can talk a good game, but perhaps we should judge people more by their actions and posts. Power plus attention to detail matter more than platitudes.
There are so many intersecting issues at play with the Presidents Club fiasco : wealth, privilege and entitlement underpaid and exploited workers, sexual harassment, treatment of female workers. Boomers can’t claim ignorance. Most people know when they are being a shit, it’s only that money and power used to protect them. Now people are coming for their reputations and in a world where branding is everything even money and power can be threatened. Social media is more powerful than hush money.
A step in the right direction would be to turn the Isle of Man into a re-education camp for the pale, grey, stale men, who refuse to amend their actions. Speed awareness courses exist for accelerator happy, boy racers, so why not courses to help ingrained misogynists?
This is a huge opportunity for PR consultants, who could be parachuted in to help the belligerents who see no problem. Hotel chains, resorts and entertainment agents who profit as third-party suppliers must ask more questions Daily, it’s worth considering what passes through the decision chamber. Wrong choices are unarguably no choices.
Today, the class divide is spreading. Trust is usually tied to events or economics. Perhaps a greater emphasis on leadership on issues affected by this week’s events would allow greater authority. It’s a huge opportunity for mindful elders to help the hubristically challenged to mend their ways and stand up for a better world. Brands have to reflect the actions of the CEO or founder: this responsibility to be trustworthy is now expected.
The world will not change until we can re-assign conditioning and change the thoughts of this generation; until the entitlement of boomers (and Trump) have has been replaced not just by a more inclusive, progressive philosophy, but tangible daily actions too.