The Oxford Women In Business society (OxWIB) has issued a statement after hosting a “Women in Media” event, which included an interview between The W magazine global editor-in-chief, Phadria Prendergast, and Pastor Tobi Adegboyega, known for his leadership of the SPAC Nation church.
OxWIB claims in a statement posted on Instagram that an “external group filmed and set up the event”. Cherwell understands this group was The W magazine. OxWIB added that they believe the purpose of this external group was to “platform their own media team and speaker” and that OxWIB “did not invite the final speaker [Pastor Tobi]” nor “know of his identity while he was speaking”. The W magazine denies wrongdoing, claiming that “[e]verything we did was approved by Oxford Women in Business”.
The event was presented by The W magazine and OxWIB to provide networking opportunities. Prendergast presided over panels alongside an OxWIB vice-president with participants from Forbes, Vogue Business, Chatham House and Essence. According to The W, “Ms. Prendergast is a revered journalist working with some of the world’s leading brands. The intention for this event was for Phadria to provide opportunities, which it did”. Prendergast has also previously led the Women of the City magazine, which has been accused of offering grants “that come with a catch”.
OxWIB told Cherwell that they had been “under the impression [Prendergast] would be on the panel rather than the moderator”, but that “[f]ive minutes before the event, plans to change the format were dictated by [Prendergast], and she decided how the questions would be asked”. The W magazine refutes these claims, however, stating to Cherwell that “from the very beginning stages of organising the event alongside OxWIB”, it was always intended “that Ms Phadria Prendergast would co-host the panel, as it was a collaborative event”.
OxWIB argues that they had to accept the changed format because the event had already been delayed by the arrival of an “extensive media team”, brought in without OxWIB’s consent, and they did not want to delay the event further. However, The W claims that during a Zoom meeting two days earlier, they and OxWIB had “discussed and confirmed that we would be bringing our media team as we had speakers joining us online, as well as in person”. The W also added that “OxWIB was very happy [with the large media presence] as they didn’t have the media equipment to accommodate this style of event”.
As the event drew to a close, Prendergast announced a final panel consisting of a one-on-one interview between her and a special guest. She then invited Tobi Adegboyega on stage.
Adegboyega, widely known as “Pastor Tobi”, founded Salvation Proclaimers Anointed Church or “SPAC Nation”. He has since faced allegations of misconduct following the government’s decision to shut down the church over allegations of fraud. He was also a key figure in the BBC Panorama special, “Conned by my Church”.
Listed on the OxWIB programme only as “PT”, Adegboyega’s attendance of the event and unique one-on-one interview came as a surprise. During the interview, Adegboyega criticised the BBC’s coverage of the SPAC Nation church and rebutted allegations that had previously been made against him.
OxWIB told Cherwell that they “only realised Mr Adegboyeda would be speaking when he got up on stage”, as he “was not properly introduced at the event nor was his name on the itinerary”. They also claim he was not included on the finalised list of speakers approved by OxWIB.
However, The W magazine argues that Adegboyega’s attendance had been discussed on the 3rd May Zoom meeting with OxWIB. At this time it was “confirm[ed] that he would be part of the programme”. According to The W, “OxWIB had only managed 15 registrations” by then, so it was agreed The W could “invite up to 20 external guests including the speakers”. The W told Cherwell that three of the speakers at the event “were not ‘pre-approved’ by OxWIB, however [OxWIB did] not seem to have any issues with their participation”.
OxWIB claims that “we believe we were deliberately misled into thinking that this would be an ordinary event, when in fact the intent behind it was to platform Mr. Adegboyega and provide further legitimacy for the W Magazine. We are appalled to have been used in such a way.”
The W magazine defends their choice of including Adegboyega in the Women in Media panel, arguing “Mr Adegboyega, a media matriarch[sic], was asked to be an addition to the panel because he is well versed and experienced in handling the media”. The W magazine touts the success of the event and this interview, claiming Adegboyega’s “story on the day inspired and caused not only for many of the students revered journalists who attended to approach him for further questions and photos [sic]”.
After the interviews and panels concluded, guests stayed around to talk with the speakers “asking for advice and exchanging contact details”, according to The W magazine. Due to concerns about “the sharing of personal information” between attendees and representatives of The W during the subsequent networking event, OxWIB have spoken to the police for advice. They told Cherwell they are also in the process of reporting the incident to the Action Fraud Police and intend to approach Trading Standards.
The W magazine told Cherwell “[t]here was no guest list and on the day no one took note of attendees via OxWIB, therefore The W created a guest list on the day of every attendee on arrival whilst they received goody bags”.
OxWIB are advising anyone who attended the event to email [email protected], urging attendees “not to engage with anyone you gave contact information to at the event”.
OxWIB told Cherwell: “[W]e have a duty of care to our members to ensure that any personal information given out at the networking session does not put them at risk. We agree that we should be scrutinised for how this event was run and for the way we respond to it. But we also believe that media attention should be on the activities of The W magazine, Ms. Prendergast, and Mr. Adegboyega, which we entirely condemn as a society and would never have wished to promote.”
The W magazine maintains that they acted with OxWIB’s approval and that proof of this correspondence with OxWIB is to follow.