Women “Nowhere Near As Good As Men” at Poker Says U.K. Politician Stuart Wheeler
A new piece from BBC News reports that Stuart Wheeler, the British business tycoon, political activist, and current treasurer of the United Kingdom Independent Party, has been responding to accusations of having made sexist comments regarding women’s capability to serve in leadership roles in business and politics. The comments caught the attention of the poker world thanks to Wheeler’s inclusion of poker among examples of pursuits in which “women were nowhere near as good as men.”
The UKIP treasurer’s comments initially came in the context of a debate regarding the possibility of the EU entertaining the idea of having sex-based quotas for filling board positions, an idea which Wheeler opposes. Following reports of his comments, Wheeler explained further his rationale for opposing such quotas earlier today on the BBC Radio 4 news program “The World at One.”
“I pointed out that in certain areas women did not do as well as men, [that is, referring to]… area[s] where they don’t compete on the basis of athleticism or strength, where obviously men would have an advantage,” Wheeler explained to the show’s host, Martha Kearney.
“And then I cited poker, bridge, and chess. And I pointed out that in those three indoor games women were nowhere near as good as men, for whatever the reason may be,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler went on to explain how a member of the panel, Clare Gerada, “leaped to her feet” to note how her 83-year-old mother was a bridge champion. “That seemed to be a reason for saying that my remark was sexist,” added Wheeler, noting that he disagreed with the logic of such a connection.
Kearney responded by asking Wheeler about another possible connection. “Because men outperform women at chess, poker, and bridge — let’s say you’re right for the sake of argument,” she began. “I am,” interjected Wheeler. “That means that men are more intelligent than women?” she asked.
To that Wheeler responded “certainly not,” going on to point out how various academic and professional pursuits find more men and/or women represented, thus indicating that men and women have different skills and abilities. Thus he doesn’t believe there should be a “minimum number of either,” i.e., there shouldn’t be any sort of quota system in place for filling positions in the boardroom or anywhere else.
When pressed by Kearney to speculate whether or not there is “something innate” that causes men to outperform women at the games he mentioned or in other areas, Wheeler resisted doing so.
“I just don’t know… we can never come to a conclusion,” he said.
As BBC news reports, some are defending Wheeler from the accusations of sexism, noting how the political climate has encouraged some to use his remarks to support broader partisan-based agendas opposing the UKIP. Diane James, a UKIP member, is quoted in the piece defending both the party and Wheeler while noting his comments have been taken “totally out of context.”
“Hey @UKIP,” she tweeted. “Can you arrange a few poker matches between your Treasurer Stuart Wheeler and myself please? Don’t worry, I’m just a girl.”
Wheeler’s background includes experience with gambling games. In 1974, Wheeler founded the Investors Gold Index, a spread betting business. The IG Index became the IG Group in 2000 and when Wheeler sold shares in the company in 2008 in order to turn his attention to politics, he became one of the wealthiest people in the U.K.
If the UKIP and Wheeler were to take up Boeree on her challenge, the 78-year-old does in fact have poker experience, having participated in the past in the World Series of Poker Main Event.
In 2003, the year of Chris Moneymaker’s historic WSOP Main Event win over a field of 839, Wheeler finished 33rd and in the money. A U.K. Telegraph article from 2002 describes him as “an obsessive poker and bridge player who was once asked to leave a Las Vegas casino for winning too much.”