The chief executive of Computacenter was accused of discriminationowards females. against women by former account manager Caroline Olds at an industrial tribunal last week.
Olds, 34, claimed Mike Norris 'found women difficult to deal with' and said management positions were only open to a male 'boys club'.
As exclusively revealed in PC Dealer, the former top saleswoman won a case of unfair dismissal against Computacenter after being sacked in September 1996 (PC Dealer, 17 December 1997). She tried to prove sex discrimination during last week's two-day tribunal in Croydon.
Olds wants the tribunal to award almost £1 million - £550,000 in lost commission and wages and £332,000 for missing out on share earnings after the reseller floated on the stock exchange last month.
Jonathan Swift, barrister for Computacenter, accepted damages would be awarded for unfair dismissal and wants the £27,000 already paid to Olds deducted. He asked the tribunal to throw out the discrimination case.
Olds was sacked after three clients - Mercury Communications, Readers' Digest and merchant bank Robert Fleming - asked for her to be taken off their accounts. She claimed male staff had lost big accounts yet been promoted to senior roles such as business unit managers, a title she held briefly before demotion and dismissal.
At the tribunal, Olds named Gavin Quinney, Chris New, John Joslin, Calvin Goom, David Sibley, Colin Brown, Chris Webb, Richard Archer and David Stacey as colleagues of less or equal skill who had been promoted ahead of her.
'If you were female, your career had a ceiling and this was at the level of account manager,' she said. 'I submit Mike Norris had numerous opportunities to promote me but chose not to because he found women difficult to manage.'
Olds faced constant objection from Swift for attempting to bring in new evidence while summing up her case. He also objected to her accusations that Computacenter had not provided requested information and that former workmates gave evidence against her because they felt intimidated.
Swift presented an independent survey showing that 80 per cent of staff were happy with opportunities within the reseller. The sales team was dominated by women but the rest of the staff was 75 per cent men and 25 per cent women.
'Sure, 75/25 is not 50/50 but then what organisation is 50/50?' he asked.
The tribunal reserved judgement and is expected to notify Olds and Computacenter of its decision next month.
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