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LinkedIn message fuels sexism debate

A row about the nature of sexism was caused by comments made on the professional social networking site, LinkedIn.
Twenty-seven-year-old Charlotte Proudman sent an invite to Alexander Carter-Silk, a senior partner at a well-known law firm. He responded with the message: “Charlotte, delighted to connect, I appreciate that this is probably horrendously politically incorrect but that is a stunning picture!!! You definitely win the prize for the best LinkedIn picture I have ever seen. Always interest [sic] to understant [sic] people’s skills and how we might work together.”
Proudman says she was appalled by the message, and reported Carter-Silk to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, as well as complaining directly to the law firm. She wrote back to him on LinkedIn, calling his behaviour “unacceptable” and “misogynistic”, and the incident was soon widely discussed on social media.
Carter-Silk, who represented Elle Macpherson in a phone-hacking trial, responded on a legal message board to justify his action. “Most people post pretty unprofessional pictures on LinkedIn, my comment was aimed at the professional quality of the presentation on LinkedIn which was unfortunately misinterpreted.” Brown Rudnick also released a brief statement: “We are aware of the comments made by a member of the firm on a private social media account. We have apologised for the offence caused and have no further comment to make.”

The episode has sparked widespread debate about what constitutes sexism and sexual harassment. Some critics have argued that Proudman has made a mountain out of a molehill for personal or publicity reasons; others that Carter-Silk’s message displayed a sentiment present in the background of many companies and professional conversations. As Proudman commented, “My partner gets messages asking if he wants a job at hedge funds, I get propositions from men asking me out. I want people to know that’s not acceptable.”
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