The executive chairman of advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi has been told to go on leave after suggesting women do not have “vertical ambition”.
Kevin Roberts said in an interview he did not believe the lack of women in senior roles “is a problem”, he did not spend “any time” on the issue and the debate was “all over”.
Maurice Levy, the CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi’s parent company Publicis Groupe, wrote to the agency’s staff stressing its position on inclusion.
A statement from the firm 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.
“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.”
In the interview published by Business Insider on Friday, Roberts said: “So we are trying to impose our antiquated shit on them, and 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 sexual discrimination because we’ve never had that problem, thank goodness.”