Brent Hoberman-founded startup to keep Barbara Judge despite allegations of racist and sexist remarks

Barbara Judge was suspended as chair of the Institute of Directors following allegations of bullying and unprofessional behaviour came to light. However, SmartUp’s leadership is still backing her role with the startup

Brent Hoberman-founded startup to keep Barbara Judge despite allegations of racist and sexist remarks

Barbara Judge has long had a reputation for being a champion of women’s rights and boardroom diversity. But those days may be gone after workers at the Institute of Directors (IoD) accused her of spewing racist and sexist remarks. Following these allegations Judge was suspended from her role as chair of the organisation. Nevertheless, it seems as if she’s still got a friend in Brent Hoberman, the serial entrepreneur behind Founders Factory, the accelerator.

The story kicked off on International Women’s Day when The Times unveiled an internal IoD report. It included 41 separate allegations against Judge from employees, including accusations of bullying and her having said that “blacks can get aggressive” and that having a black person and a pregnant woman in the IoD secretariat was “the worst combination we could possibly have.” Despite she vehemently denied the accusations, the business network suspended her on Friday. Although, Judge claimed she voluntarily stepped down.

However, it seems as if Judge still has the backing of Hoberman who in February saw her step into the role of chairwoman at SmartUp, the gamified-learning app he’d launched. Together with his co-founder and CEO Frank Meehan, the serial entrepreneur has publicly defended the ousted IoD chair and will not fire her from her new job.

Speaking with Business Insider, Hoberman said all references they had about Judge suggested she was “somebody of giant integrity and intellect.” Although, he added that while there currently was no evidence for her behaviour and that they wouldn’t try her, they might reconsider if “other bodies find there is terrible behaviour”.

While it’s always difficult to determine what’s true in cases like these, Judge isn’t the first powerful person who’s been ousted amidst allegations of sexism. Following the rise of the #MeToo and Time’s up movements, both men and women have found themselves in accusers’ crosshairs. Here’s hoping it doesn’t affect someone innocent of any misconduct.

Eric Johansson
Eric Johansson

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