workplace sexism

Good News, Everyone, the Gender-Diversity Debate in Advertising Is ‘All Over,’ Because This Saatchi Chairman Said So

Kevin Roberts.
Kevin Roberts.

Gender bias in the advertising industry is a known issue — from female executives speaking out about the aggressively male workplace culture to sexist advertisements receiving recognition at festivals. The numbers don’t bode well either, with women only holding down 11 percent of creative-director roles. But according to Saatchi & Saatchi chairman Kevin Roberts, who also serves as head coach at the advertising agency’s parent company, Publicis Groupe, gender diversity in the advertising industry is not an issue worth speaking about anymore because “the fucking debate is all over.”

In a new interview with Business Insider, Roberts pointed out that Saatchi’s staff is 65 percent female, while Publicis Groupe’s is 50 percent. “Roberts said he doesn’t spend ‘any time’ on supposed gender issues at his agencies at all — saying the issue is ‘way worse’ in sectors like financial services, where there are ‘problems left, right, and center,’” wrote Insider.

Roberts also shifts the blame onto women themselves because, he says, they just don’t want to be in leadership positions. “We have a bunch of talented, creative females, but they reach a certain point in their careers … ten years of experience, when we are ready to make them a creative director of a big piece of business, and I think we fail in two out of three of those choices because the executive involved said: ‘I don’t want to manage a piece of business and people, I want to keep doing the work’,” he said, regarding Saatchi’s staff.

Roberts is quick to add that the women are actually much, much happier when they’re not in executive roles because they have a “circular ambition to be happy,” unlike men’s “vertical ambition”: 

“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.”

Oh okay. Glad we cleared that all up.

Saatchi Chairman: Gender Diversity a Nonissue