Saatchi and Saatchi chairman Kevin Roberts has been put on leave for saying the debate on gender bias in the industry is “all over”.
He told Business Insider he did not think the lack of women in leadership roles “is a problem” in the advertising industry.
However, Maurice Levy, the head of the advertising company’s parent group, Publicis, said it would not tolerate anyone who did not value inclusion.
Publicis said its board would decide whether to take further action.
In the interview, published on July 29, Kevin Roberts said the “debate is all over” about gender diversity in the advertising industry.
He goes on to say that rather than holding ambitions to progress into the higher echelons of management, many women – and men – simply want to be happy and “do great work”.
Kevin Roberts adds: “…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 s**ual discrimination because we’ve never had that problem, thank goodness.”
Publicis CEO Maurice Levy said: “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.”
Maurice Levy added: “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 organization who does not value the importance of inclusion.”