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Times TOP50 work places for women, due to appear on 7 Oct 2009, looks like a fraud, internal docs, Aurora, 2007-2009

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September 29, 2009

The Times & Sunday Times publish various company / corporate lists throughout the year. Lists such as Best 100 Companies to Work For, Top 100 Graduate recruiters & The TOP 50 places Where Women Want to Work. Companies entering these competitions do so in all seriousness, they can spend thousands hiring media companies to compile the entry on their behalf, and allocate serious personnel resources to trying to ensure success. Once given, the award is recognised nationally, and is used by the recipient in press releases, on their own sites and anywhere that the award has relevance. Because of the reputation of the Times newspapers, wouldn’t readers at the very least expect these ‘competitions’ to be rigorously checked.

You can find out more on this and see examples here:

As mentioned, one such list is The Times TOP 50 places Where Women Want to Work. IT is now in its 4th year. The list is compiled solely by a small company called Aurora. Entry to this competition is limited to large corporates with at least 1000 UK employees. The company must fill in and answer several questions showing why they are progressive employers, and what sets them apart in their approach to the gender issue. The competition is run through May-August, judged in September and published in October. Entry of course is free, and judging is supposed to be impartial.

You can find out more here

Aurora is a small company currently consisting of only 3 employees. Glenda Stone, her husband Leigh, and, possibly, a young family friend from Australia. Aurora’s revenue stream comes from its online recruitment site, The wheretowork site offers recruitment advertising & employer branding to its clients. Aurora’s clients have to purchase an annual licence to appear on the site, and the cost of this licence is £12,000 per annum. To appear on wheretowork, there are certain criteria, for example the organisations have to be large corporate clients with at least 1000 UK employees, in fact the very same criteria as needed to enter the TOP 50 list it alone judges. As is a branding exercise, as well as a recruitment tool, every single organisation that enters its Times TOP 50 listing is automatically also a potential client for the site. By the same yardstick, every current client of Wheretowork, entering the Times TOP50, is also perhaps an entry that Aurora would not want to cast aside for fear of annoying a valuable and lucrative client. Given that only about 64 complete and legitimate entries were received into the TOP50 competition last year, is it any surprise that every single one of those that did not make it into the TOP50 list was not a client of Aurora. Or put another way, Aurora’s clients entering the impartial competition scored a 100% success rate.

You can find out more about Aurora here

Isn’t it odd given the obvious conflict of interest between Aurora’s CEO Glenda Stone being the sole judge of the Times TOP 50 competition, as well as depending on many of the entrants for her company’s livelihood, that there is no check on the criteria, judgements, or any other part of the award on the part of News International? Given the obvious conflict here, one would at least expect Aurora to need to justify at least in part how the award is given. As it is Aurora simply presents the final list, the Times simply sells the advertising space, and come October 50 successful companies get to pat themselves on the back.

Document 1.

Document 1 provides the motive. It is an entry from Glenda Stone’s diary dated 24/9/2007. It is a meeting set up between Glenda Stone, CEO of Aurora & Ingrid Devin, EMEA Diversity Program Manager for Dell. The meeting was to discuss Dell purchasing a £12,000 license for Glenda Stone wanted Dell on board, and was pushing the sale of the license. Of course because of the date being in September, this places the meeting right in the middle of the judging period for the TOP50. In fact by the 24th the TOP50 were already decided, but this meeting was set up in advance. It shows without doubt that, if they had entered the TOP50, Dell were also, at the same time, being targeted towards becoming an Aurora client.

Document 2.

Document 2 is an email sent by Glenda Stone 12 Sep 2007 at 19:49. It is addressed to Ingrid at Dell, the very person Glenda Stone is trying to sell the expensive license to. Glenda not only clearly indicates that Dell have made it into the TOP50 but goes further, telling Ingrid that Dell are in the running for a special award as one of the ‘best entries’. The only problem here is that on the 12 Sep, the TOP50 had not yet been decided or finalised. So not only did Glenda Stone have no position to be pre-empting the official announcements by nudging and winking at Dell, but there is no way at this point Glenda Stone could have known Dell were going to be included unless she can award placement unilaterally without viewing the entire entry. This email is Aurora buttering up a prospective client by ‘giving’ them a TOP50 award. Dell would not have known anything untoward was taking place.

Document 3.

This is an email sent by Glenda Stone 12 Sep 2007 at 22.38, 3 hours after she had sent the congratulatory email to Dell. It is an email to an employee A…B…. the person at the time working on the Marketing for Aurora and in 2007 was the only employee helping Glenda Stone with the award. In 2008 Glenda Stone completed the entire judging of all entries in a single weekend all by herself – due process and all. Document 3 is instructive, telling A.B that she needs to compile an excel document making editorial notes about the entries into the TOP50. It is one of the stages towards compiling the list. Firstly someone lists all the entries and makes positive / negative notes against their names. From here the judging moves forward. It is clear then at this point, the TOP50 is far from completion. Glenda Stone is even explicit – “we need to agree who is in and out of the TOP50” – stating quite clearly, 3 hours after the congratulatory email to Dell, that the TOP50 list is still to be compiled. Finally she signs off with the emphasised “I need to get all the OUT entries so I can quickly review and agree”. Note here, Glenda Stone is not worried about who is IN, only in who has been left out. There is no mention here of course of having to check whether the best entries have got in. How was this email written hours after Dell had already been informed they were successful in the TOP50? Why is there no control check by The Times into such a glaringly obvious conflict of interest?

Document 4.

This is further evidence of an Aurora client being shown enormous favouritism in the TOP50 process. Entries to the TOP 50 were closed 24 Aug 2007. This email shows Glenda Stone chasing after HP (an Aurora client) a full week after the TOP50 had closed still seeking HP’s entry. Additionally rather than stressing urgency or pushing deadlines, this email clearly shows a relaxed almost “whatever they want” attitude to HP’s entry. Needless to say a non-client would have been given no such grace

Document 5.

The TOP50 is open officially to companies with at least 1000 UK employees. Companies submitting forms of interest that do not meet this criteria are swiftly denied entry.. Document 5 is the original interest submission from McKinsey & Company clearly showing they do not meet the entry criteria and therefore should not have been accepted as a legitimate entry. McKinsey at the time were a client, and therefore the submission and success were ‘assured’.

Document 6.

This screenshot clearly shows that McKinsey’s staff numbers have been manipulated to 1000, apparently to enable official entry. McKinsey said they had 723 employees, how then did this become 1000?

Documents 7&8 (combined).

Is a document from Aurora’s own Admin management area and is the complete list of all entries into the TOP50 2007. Only 65 organisations are listed & only those with a smiling face had completed entry. Despite Glenda Stone’s attempts to reach HP a week after deadline, it can clearly be seen HP did not submit. If we also remove Aurora’s trial entry, we are left with ONLY 63 valid and completed entries into a TOP50 competition. When viewing a top50 listing, isn’t there an assumption that a competition has actually taken place? If there were to be some element of fairness to the proceedings, then why not a top10, or top15, how can the Times possible accept a TOP50 listing that in effect is simply the entire compilation of entries less a few. What is also clear from the list is the success rate of the client entries. Only 2 of the clients that entered in 2007 failed to make the list. As one of these was so displeased that it failed to renew its membership with, Glenda Stone did not make the same mistake again, and in 2008, the Aurora client success rate for the TOP50 rose from 93% to 100%. It can also be seen from this document that the non Aurora client success rate is much lower, unless of course like Dell you are being ‘fished’ for as a potential client. These documents only address one competition, the Times Where Women Want To Work TOP50, but is raises serious questions. Why is there absolutely no double check or safe guard in place to ensure the competition is made fairly, One would hope The Times is unaware of the actual number of entrants, judging criteria, that only one person judges, ‘allowances are made’ ‘manipulations’ occur and of course of the Aurora client success rate. Doesn’t all this render the competition simply a company advertisement, and if so shouldn’t it clearly state itself as such?
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