Saatchi boss resigns over sexism row

3 August 2016
Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts, the Saatchi & Saatchi chairman and head coach, has resigned just days after being embroiled in a row over sexist comments.

Roberts, who authored 'Lovemarks', was suspended over the weekend after an article published Business Insider quoted him saying a number of things that didn't sit well with the Publicis Groupe's “no-tolerance policy towards behaviour or commentary counter to the spirit of Publicis Groupe and its celebration of difference as captured in the motto Viva la Difference!”

A statement released by Publicis today (3 August) said: "The Supervisory Board and the Chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe took note of Kevin Robert's decision to step down with effect from 1 September, prior to his retirement date due in May 2017."

It's not known if the controversial circumstances around his exit from the business will mean he is not eligible for any payouts or bonuses that he would otherwise have received had he retired as normal next year. It's a common contract clause that benefits and bonuses can be revoked if an executive brings the agency into disrepute.

Roberts had told Business Insider that the debate around gender in the advertising industry was "over" adding that he didn't spend any time on it. He also claimed vocal campaigner for gender equality in the industry Cindy Gallop was making things up to build profile.

His comments are the latest to spark headlines about gender equality and diversity in the industry.
In the Australian market there are moves being made to introduce an independent charter designed to help agencies tackle diversity through benchmarking, pledging action and improving standards.

The Agency Circle is led by a group of ten agencies which have all pledged to drive change within their organisations and the broader industry. It will officially launch in September. You can read more about it here.

Maurice Levy moved quickly to place Roberts on leave after the article was published saying: "Diversity and inclusion are business imperatives on which Publicis Groupe will not negotiate. 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 organisation who does not value the importance of inclusion. Publicis Groupe works very hard to champion diversity and will continue to insist that each agency’s leadership be champions of both diversity and inclusion.”

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