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Advertising Boss Put On Leave Over Gender Equality Comments

The chairman of a world-renowned advertising agency has been placed on leave after claiming that the debate about gender diversity within the industry is "all over."

Kevin Roberts, who served as CEO of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi from 1997 to 2014, before being made chairman, argued in an interview with Business Insider that the lack of women in leadership roles is not "a problem" because "they are very happy, they're very successful, and doing great work."
Figures released in 2014 found that while 46.4% of people working in the advertising industry are female, only 11.5% of those occupying senior Creative Director positions are women.

Roberts said of many people working at Saatchi & Saatchi, both men and women, "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.'"

Told that advertising executive Cindy Gallop had tweeted earlier this month, "Sexual harassment is endemic in the media, advertising and every industry," Roberts replied, "I think she’s got problems that are of her own making. I think she's making up a lot of the stuff to create a profile, and to take applause, and to get on a soap[box]."

Gallop responded by telling Business Insider: "The best response to that is to throw it open to the industry, and ask the women and men of the ad industry, all around the world, to tweet at [Roberts' account] @krconnect to let him know whether they think I'm 'making it all up'." Gallop has also responded to Roberts' comments in a tweet.

Publicis Groupe, the parent company of Saatchi & Saatchi, said in a statement that following his comments in the interview, Roberts "has been asked to take of absence" which is "effective immediately," adding, "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," the statement added. "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."