Saatchi and Saatchi chair, Kevin Roberts, has been put on leave after saying in an interview that gender bias in advertising business doesn’t exist.
The interview was in Business Review:
Roberts said: “Edward de Bono [the physician, psychologist, and author] once told me there is no point in being brilliant at the wrong thing — the fucking debate is all over. This is a diverse world, we are in a world where we need, like we’ve never needed before, integration, collaboration, connectivity, and creativity … this will be reflected in the way the Groupe is.”
Publicis Groupe has around a 50/50 gender split amongst all its staff, while around 65% of Saatchi’s staff are female as the agency wants to reflect the buyers of the types of products it is advertising, Roberts added. . .
Roberts said he doesn’t spend “any time” on supposed gender issues at his agencies at all — saying the issue is “way worse” in sectors like financial services, where there are “problems left, right, and center.”
Where this is a gender-related challenge at Saatchi, he said, is elevating female creatives into top roles.
“We have a bunch of talented, creative females, but they reach a certain point in their careers … 10 years of experience, when we are ready to make them a creative director of a big piece of business, and I think we fail in two out of three of those choices because the executive involved said: ‘I don’t want to manage a piece of business and people, I want to keep doing the work’,” Roberts said.
Historically, advertising companies have looked at this kind of scenario as a failure — but Roberts, who earlier in our conversation suggests it’s an area that his company “can’t figure out,” later suggests that perhaps agencies would do well to look at the issue through a different lens.
“If you think about those Darwinian urges of wealth, power, and fame — they are not terribly effective in today’s world for a millennial because they want connectivity and collaboration. They feel like they can get that without managing and leading, so maybe we have got the definition wrong,” Roberts said.
Women are saying: “We are not judging ourselves by those standards that you idiotic dinosaur-like men impose”
Rather than holding ambitions to progress into the higher echelons of the c-suite, many women — and men — simply want to be happy and do great work, which management can often overlook, Roberts said.
He added: “So we are trying to impose our antiquated shit on them, and they are going: ‘Actually guys, you’re missing the point, you don’t understand: I’m way happier than you.’ Their 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.” . . .
Below the interview is the statement from Publicis saying Roberts has been placed on leave immediately:
Following the comments made by Saatchi & Saatchi Executive Chairman and Publicis Groupe Head Coach, Kevin Roberts, in a recent interview with Business Insider, Publicis Groupe Chairman & CEO, Maurice Lévy addressed a statement internally to all Publicis Groupe employees to reiterate the Groupe’s no-tolerance policy towards behaviour or commentary counter to the spirit of Publicis Groupe and its celebration of difference as captured in the motto Viva la Difference!
It is for the gravity of these statements that Kevin Roberts has been asked to take a leave of absence from Publicis Groupe effective immediately. As a member of The Directoire, it will ultimately be the Publicis Groupe Supervisory Board’s duty to further evaluate his standing.
Diversity & 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.
Promoting gender equality starts at the top and the Groupe will not tolerate anyone speaking for our organisation who does not value the importance of inclusion. 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.
Not PC says Roberts has been suspended for honesty:
NZer Kevin Roberts was “suspended” from his job as head of the Saatchi advertising empire for saying companies should be judged by how happy they make their female employees happy, not by how many with female parts occupy the boardroom. The feminazis rose up in droves. “People like Kevin Roberts no longer belong in ad agencies,” thundered the politest of the commentariat.We’re supposed to back his sacking say Twitterati, because this is apparently offensive to all right-thinking social-justice warriors. Get with their programme, Kev!
But what did he say that was so wrong, wonders Elena Shalneva? What’s wrong with being honest about “gender diversity”?
Not only is he well-informed on the subject, but he approaches the complex issue of gender diversity in a more intelligent and nuanced way than most…
From what I have read, there is absolutely nothing wrong with what Roberts said. On the contrary, he dared to approach an issue as sensitive as gender diversity in an honest and humane way, rather than resort to the one-sided ideological statements more customary to this subject.
Karl du Fresne echoes that:
. . . The irony is that Roberts may not have been downplaying women’s legitimate career ambitions at all, but instead was wondering aloud whether there were better options for women than relentlessly pursuing advancement as men do. That was the interpretation placed on his remarks in a discussion (between women, as it happened) that I heard on the BBC.
Not that it matters. Men are not permitted to discuss such things. . . .
Whether or not Roberts is right is a matter of opinion.
I didn’t read anything in his comments that showed any criticism of diversity and inclusion.
On the contrary, like Not PC and du Fresne I read a suggestion of another way of looking at work and success, that Roberts points out applies to some men too.
Whether or not he’s right, the reaction of the business is concerning. They put up no argument to refute Roberts, they simply stood him down.
That looks very like the linguistic fascism P.D. James criticises in today’s quote above.