Out of all the names the Queen chose to recognise in the 2016 New Year Honours List, Jacqueline Gold has perhaps attracted the most comment in the media. The CEO of Ann Summers was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to entrepreneurship, women in business and social enterprise but, despite everything she has achieved, there was an element of sneering in some of the reporting.
A Daily Mail article dated 2nd January (updated on the 3rd) leapt to her defence, saying: “It should have been a day of celebration for Jacqueline Gold after being awarded her CBE by the Queen last week but, after more than three decades building her 140-strong Ann Summers store chain and more recently campaigning for women in the workplace, she faced a barrage of criticism just as she gained official recognition for her business acumen…She was branded a ‘Sex Shop Queen’ amid claims she won her award through political cronyism – both charges she vehemently dismisses.”
Unfortunately the newspaper that ran a piece with the headline ‘How the sex shop queen handed a CBE was previously turned down for a gong (funny how she got one after becoming pals with Dave)’ was the very same Daily Mail. Rather remarkably, the publication also managed to run several other pieces with disparaging headlines, all within days of each other, including: ‘A gong for selling sex toys and why I’m convinced Britain’s become a corrupt country’ and ‘Save these awards for the truly deserving’. The latter was accompanied by a picture of Ms Gold and began: “Queen Victoria must be spinning in her grave. For that matter, can the present Queen be altogether happy about some of today’s honours dished out in her name? Take the CBE for Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of the high street sex-shop chain, Ann Summers. This paper has commented in the past on questionable choices for honours, such as the peerages for Michelle Mone, struggling designer of a cleavage-enhancing bra, and Karren Brady of The Apprentice, whose career took off in a pornography empire. Now those who hand out the gongs seem determined to drag the system further into ridicule and disrepute.”
Gold began her career at Ann Summers at the age of 21 as an intern with no formal business training and was instrumental in changing the focus of the business towards women, most notably through party plan. She was appointed CEO in 1993 and shortly after this launched the first Ann Summers store on to the British High Street with an e-commerce site launching in 1999. Ann Summers currently employs 10,000 people and boasts 138 retail stores, an online platform, wholesale partnerships with ASOS, Shop Direct and House of Fraser and a party plan business with 4,000 active party planners. Jacqueline also supports other women in business (through her WOW: Championing Working Women network) and a number of charitable causes including The Children’s Trust, where she is Vice President, the Retail Trust and NAPAC.
Commenting on the award of the CBE, Ms Gold said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been awarded a CBE in the New Year Honours list. When you feel so passionately about what you do and what you believe in, it’s hard not to get emotional, so when I heard I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or scream! I have been in business for over 35 years and during that time there have been many highs, and a few challenges, but I have always stayed true to what I believe and creating a business that is about empowering women. Being recognised for my service to entrepreneurship, women in business and social enterprise means so much as it acknowledges all of the areas that I am truly passionate about. I hope that this wonderful recognition that I have received encourages other women to follow their dreams and realise that anything is possible.”