Ann Summers CEO Jacqueline Gold claims ban on men in work is only way for women to succeed

Public Sector People Managers’ Association conference, 28-30 March, Hilton Metropole, Brighton

The chief executive of adult retailer Ann Summers told delegates at the Brighton conference that the only way for women to succeed in business was to do away with men in the workplace.

And that is virtually what Jacqueline Gold has done in transforming the retailer from a turnover of £87,000 in 1987 to £155m this year, with 7,500 (all women) party planners and 141 retail outlets (mostly staffed by women).

Apart from a couple of exceptions, men are only employed at the company’s head office. And even there the ratio is 60:40 women to men. But Gold justified this tactic by explaining that banishing men from most aspects of the organisation had created an environment in which women could thrive.

“Women [at other companies] will often say that they’ve had a fantastic idea, but they feel intimidated,” she said. “The fact that we’ve got a female chief executive and a female managing director means we don’t have that problem.”

When asked from the floor how the public sector could be made to be more sexy, Gold replied that the way to create a dynamic workplace was to make it fun.

“But that has to come from the top. People at the top need to buy into it. [Your organisation] has got to be a fun place to work,” she said.

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