WORLD
25/01/2018 8:14 AM AEDT

Prestigious Men-Only Charity In London To Close Amid Sexual Harassment Claims

Two female journalists went undercover as waitresses at the event and reported rampant groping and sexual harassment.

A prominent, decades-old U.K. charity known for its annual, men-only fundraising dinners announced that it will close following reports that some of its guests groped and sexually harassed hostesses hired for an event last week. 

The announcement comes a day after the Financial Times published a bombshell article on Tuesday detailing misogyny and abuse at what the Presidents Club Charitable Trust’s host proudly proclaimed to be “the most un-PC event of the year.”

The newspaper sent two female reporters to the club’s charity dinner, both of whom posed as waitresses to get a behind-the-scenes look at the black-tie event.

“All of the women were told to wear skimpy black outfits with matching underwear and high heels,” FT reporter Madison Marriage wrote. “At an after-party many hostesses — some of them students earning extra cash — were groped, sexually harassed and propositioned.”

In the wake of the report, the charity announced that it would close; businessman David Meller, one of the event’s organizers, stepped down from his position on the board of the Department for Education. Several of the children’s hospitals that have received funds from the charity said they would return all donations raised at the event.

Over the more than 30 years that the annual dinners have taken place, the charity has raised nearly $30 million for nonprofits supporting children.

“The trustees have decided that the Presidents Club will not host any further fund-raising events,” the charity said in a statement to The New York Times.  “Remaining funds will be distributed in an efficient manner to children’s charities and it will then be closed.”

More than 300 tycoons of business, politics and finance attended the event, FT reported, which took place on Jan. 18 at The Dorchester hotel in London. Roughly 130 women were hired to be hostesses for the event and were reportedly warned that the men at the event might be “annoying.”

In an appearance on BBC’s Newsnight on Tuesday, Marriage said she was groped several times and heard the same from other hostesses.

“It is hands on skirts, hands on hips, on stomachs, arms going around your waist unexpectedly,” the reporter said.

Marriage recounted one of the worst stories she heard from other women that night, saying that one hostess claimed a guest had exposed his genitals to her during the course of the dinner. Another said a man told her to “down her glass of champagne, rip off her knickers and dance on the table.”

A spokesperson for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, which had received over $750,000 from the Presidents Club between 2009 and 2016, responded to the reports.

“We are shocked to hear of the behavior reported at the Presidents Club Charitable Trust fundraising dinner. We would never knowingly accept donations raised in this way,” the spokesperson said.

Several members of Parliament also expressed their outrage over the report, with some calling for tougher workplace equality laws to prevent future abuse.

“British business need to take a long hard look at itself,” Maria Miller, chair of the parliamentary Committee on Women and Equalities, told The Guardian. “How seriously is business taking equality at work if they are still using men-only events for entertainment?”

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