Saatchi chief says women lack ambition for senior roles

Saatchi is in jeopardy after Roberts\' suggestion that women lacked ambition in the workplace led to his \'immediate leave of absence\'.

Published: 01st August 2016 07:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st August 2016 07:58 AM   |  A+A-

He is one of the world's most powerful executives, the author of bestselling books and holder of honorary professorships at several universities.

Now Kevin Roberts' future as chairman of advertising giant Saatchi and Saatchi is in jeopardy after his suggestion that women lacked ambition in the workplace led to his "immediate leave of absence".

In an interview with Business Insider, Mr Roberts, 66, who was born in Lancaster but is now based in New York, said he did not think the lack of women in leadership roles "is a problem".

"Their ambition is not a vertical ambition, it's this intrinsic, circular ambition to be happy," he said. "So they say: 'We are not judging ourselves by those standards that you idiotic dinosaur-like men judge yourself by'."

He went on: "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."

Mr Roberts, who also sits on the board of directors of the advertising agency's parent company Publicis Groupe, went on to claim that Cindy Gallop, an advertising consultant who has campaigned for gender equality, is "making up a lot of the stuff to create a profile, and to take applause, and to get on a soap[box]."

Publicis Groupe swiftly issued a statement that said due to the "gravity" of Mr Roberts's comments he "has been asked to take leave of absence ... effective immediately". His future at the company has yet to be decided. Asked in the interview whether the gender diversity debate was still relevant in the advertising industry, Mr Roberts said: "Not in my view.

"Edward de Bono [the physician, psychologist and author] once told me that there is no point in being brilliant at the wrong thing - the f------ 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."

The interview prompted heavy criticism on social media. Hours later, Publicis announced that Mr Roberts had been asked to take leave of absence.

Publicis chief executive Maurice Levy said that "diversity and inclusion are business imperatives on which Publicis Groupe will not negotiate".

He went on: "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."


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