Axe over KR after sexist stumble

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Kevin Roberts has been stood down as Saatchi chairman over some ill-advised comments on women in advertising. Roberts defended the lack of women in high-level roles by essentially saying women are often happier in lower-level positions because they lack the “vertical ambition” of men. 

“I’m just not worried about it because they are very happy, they’re very successful, and doing great work,” he told Business Insider’s Lara O’Reilly. “I can’t talk about sexual discrimination because we’ve never had that problem, thank goodness.”

When asked about gender balance in advertising and the need for more women in leadership, Roberts is quoted saying “the fucking debate is all over.” He pointed to Saatchi’s 65 percent female employee pool and parent company Publicis Groupe’s 50-50 total gender split as signs that gender bias is no longer a problem.

Publicis CEO Maurice Levy issued a statement: “The opinion expressed by Kevin is neither shared nor supported by myself or the Groupe. It is his own, expressed in his unique and provocative way.”

With Roberts now on “leave of absence,” Kat Gordon, founder of The 3 Percent Conference—an industry diversity event named for the perennially low ratio of female creative directors—is quoted by Adweek as saying Roberts is “bafflingly wrong” about the state of gender balance in advertising and how women are treated in the workplace.

“Just this week, The 3 Percent Conference started analysing over 500 responses we got about sexism and gender bias in the ad world as a result of our ‘Elephant on Madison Avenue’ survey. I can say with complete statistical backup that Mr. Roberts is wrong about gender bias being solved in the ad world,” Gordon said.

She’s hoping Roberts will recognize his mistake and make a sincere public apology to the women within the Publicis network.

What will now happen to the great man remains to be seen.

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