A 57-year-old lawyer was accused of “unacceptable and misogynistic behaviour” after he sent a barrister half his age a LinkedIn message complimenting her on her “stunning picture”.
Alexander Carter-Silk was named and shamed on Twitter by 27-year-old human rights lawyer Charlotte Proudman who posted her reply to the message online.
He has since apologised for the message, in which he told Ms Proudman he was “delighted to connect”, adding “I appreciate that this is probably horrendously politically incorrect but that is a stunning picture !!!”
The lawyer, a partner at international firm Brown Rudnick continued: “You definitely win the prize for the best Linked in picture I have ever seen
“Always interest [sic] to understant [sic] people’s skills and how we might work together”.
Ms Proudman, who is studying for a PhD at the University of Cambridge researching female genital mutilation, told Mr Carter-Silk his message was “offensive”.
Her response, which prompted praise on social media, read: “I am on linked-in for business purposes not to be approached about my physical appearance or to be objectified by sexist men.
“The eroticisation of women’s physical appearance is a way of exercising power over women. It silences women’s professional attributes as their physical appearance becomes the subject
“Unacceptable and misogynistic behaviour. Think twice before sending another woman (half your age) such a sexist message.”
Ms Proudman said she had received similar messages about her appearance before, although not from anyone as senior as Mr Carter-Silk. Unlike her male peers, the barrister said she has never received a job offer through the professional networking site.
Ms Proudman told the Telegraph: “I was just so infuriated after I read the message. Initially I thought ‘Oh God another one, I’ll just delete it’.
“Then I thought, ‘no I’m not going to take this’. This is from a senior partner who should know better.”
She said Mr Carter-Silk had since apologised in an email which said: “I sincerely regret my remarks have offended you and I offer you my apologies”.
But the barrister said the apology was not enough.
“He hasn’t in my view accepted the fact that his actions were incredibly sexist and on the basis of objectifying my appearance. It’s absolutely bare minimum in terms of an apology.”
A number of women responded to Ms Proudman with messages of support.
Mandeer Kataria said: “I changed my LinkedIn profile photo to an uglier one so I’d get fewer creepy men adding/messaging me”.
Jessica Asato said: “I would rather be complimented on my achievements than my face. One I worked hard for, the other I was born with”.
Ms Proudman said she had received “lots of supportive messages from men across all sectors”.
In a statement to the legal news and gossip site RollOnFriday, Carter-Silk said: “Most people post pretty unprofessional pictures on Linked in, my comment was aimed at the professional quality of the presentation on linked in which was unfortunately misinterpreted.
“Ms Proudman is clearly highly respected and I was pleased to receive her request to linkup and very happy to instruct her on matters which [are] relevant to her expertise that remains the position”.
A spokesperson for law firm Brown Rudnick told the Daily Mail: “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.”