(UPDATE): Publicis Groupe announced yesterday that the executive chairman Saatchi and Saatchi, Kevin Roberts, will step down on 1 September, following the comments he made about women’s ambitions at work. He had been due to retire in May 2017.
Roberts’s comment on gender diversity and women’s position in the advertising industry has landed him in hot water. He suggested that women’s goal in the workplace is to be happy and do great work, rather than to progress into leadership roles.
In an interview with Business Insider magazine, the Saatchi and Saatchi chairman and head coach at the firm’s parent company Publicis Groupe, said women judged themselves by different standards to men. He said: “[Women’s] ambition is not a vertical ambition, it’s this intrinsic, circular ambition to be happy”.
“So they say: ‘We are not judging ourselves by those standards that you idiotic dinosaur-like men judge yourself by’. I don’t think [the lack of women in leadership roles] is a problem. I’m just not worried about it because they are very happy, they’re very successful, and doing great work. I can’t talk about sexual discrimination because we’ve never had that problem, thank goodness.”
Following the utterances Publicis announced that Roberts was asked to take a leave of absence effective immediately, declaring that “promoting gender equality starts at the top” and that it would not “tolerate anyone speaking for our organisation who does not value the importance of inclusion”. In a statement, the company said:
“Diversity and inclusion are business imperatives on which Publicis Groupe will not negotiate. While fostering a work environment that is inclusive of all talent is a collective responsibility, it is leadership’s job to nurture the career aspirations and goals of all our talent.
“Publicis Groupe works very hard to champion diversity and will continue to insist that each agency’s leadership be champions of both diversity and inclusion.”