WPP boss wades into the gender bias debate

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World-wide reaction continues over the gender diversity comments by Saatchi boss, Kevin Roberts with UK-based WPP chief executive saying he was just “echoing the words of his boss.” Sir Martin Sorrell has told Campaign that Publicis Groupe chief executive Maurice Levy is on the record expressing similar views. 

The WPP founder’s comments come after Roberts was placed on leave for remarks he made about gender diversity and women’s ambition telling Business Insider on Friday that gender diversity is no longer a problem at his agency and that women didn’t become executives because they were happier in more humble roles.

In March, Levy told an audience at the 4A’s Transformation conference in Miami that allegations of sexism and racism against former JWT Worldwide CEO Gustavo Martinez were “one man’s mistake” and not “exemplary of what’s happening in our industry.”

Martinez resigned in March in the wake of a discrimination lawsuit. Sorrell challenged those remarks at the same conference, accusing Levy of “ignoring the facts.”

Sorrell said it sounds like Roberts was “only echoing the words of his boss (or is it team manager?) at the 4A’s conference in March, i.e. that there wasn’t a diversity issue in our industry, and that any substance, for example in the Gustavo Martinez case, was an isolated example.

“The Kevin Roberts case, and indeed other examples including the long litigation in the [MSLGroup] case, which was not well reported on, clearly prove it wasn’t and that we’re all suffering from it across the industry,” he said.

“More hard work needs to be done to establish even gender balance, and that’s not the end. My experience, for what it’s worth, indicates that female leadership is the most effective catalyst. By the way, this is not a grumpy old man speaking, just someone closely observing our industry… who would like to see effective change.”

Publicis Groupe declined to comment on Sorrell’s response and pointed to its previous statement, which distanced the company from Roberts’ views.

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