- Saatchi & Saatchi Chairman Kevin Roberts has resigned less than a week after making controversial comments about women in the advertising world, Fortune reports.
- In the now-infamous interview with Business Insider, Roberts said women do not have the same ambition as men do and dismissed the debate over gender discrimination in the advertising world as being "over."
- After making the comments, Roberts was suspended and criticized by Maurice Levy, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi's parent Publicis Groupe, and Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Robert Senior.
While some in the ad industry say allegations of widespread sexism are off the mark, Roberts' remarks this week brought the issue into the spotlight once again.
"I don't think [the lack of women in leadership roles] is a problem," Roberts told Business Insider earlier this week, setting off a chain of events that led to his resignation. "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.
It's simply the latest controversial episode in the debate over gender discrimination at ad agencies. The debate was sparked earlier this year by a lawsuit outlining pervasive sexual and racial discrimination against WPP’s J. Walter Thompson agency and its CEO Gustavo Martinez, who lost his job as a result of the suit.
Not long after the suit was made public, Publicis CEO Maurice Levy said the issue was an isolated incident that's not indicative of widespread problems. Roberts' remarks and subsequent resignation appear to disprove Levy's point, thrusting Publicis and Levy into the center of the debate over gender diversity in the industry.
Earlier this week, Saatchi & Saatchi’s global Chief Creative Officer Kate Stanners told the BBC Today that Roberts’ statement upset agency employees. “I think women don’t bail out," she said. "I think we do want the top jobs. I think the most important thing is encouraging women to be more vocal and more high profile so that younger women and women coming through the ranks can see that it is possible and that there is no reason why they can’t take these jobs.”
Before Roberts’ resignation, Levy announced his suspension in a statement: “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.”