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Women demonstrate "intrinsic circular ambition" rather than "vertical ambition"...

Posted by on Aug. 4, 2016 at 6:56 AM
  • 6 Replies

Saatchi executive chairman put on leave over gender comments

Kevin Roberts said debate about bias was ‘all over’ and denied that the lack of women in leadership roles was a problem

The executive chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi has been suspended after he denied that the lack of women in leadership roles was a problem in the advertising industry and said the debate about gender bias was “all over”.

The agency’s French parent company, Publicis, has put Kevin Roberts on leave following his comments in an interview with Business Insider.

Maurice Lévy, the chief executive of Publicis, said the company would not tolerate anyone who “does not value the importance of inclusion”.

In a statement to all staff, he 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 [executive board], 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 group 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.”

Roberts, who is from Lancashire, is also head coach at Publicis and has been at Saatchi & Saatchi’s helm for 20 years. In the interview, he said that rather than holding ambitions to climb the career ladder, many women, and men, simply wanted to be happy and “do great work”.

He said: “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.”

Roberts said he did not spend any time on gender issues at his agencies, saying the issue was “way worse” in sectors such as financial services, where there are “problems left, right and centre”.

Asked about female campaigners such as the advertising consultant Cindy Gallop, who recently tweeted that sexual harassment was endemic in the media, advertising and every industry, Roberts said: “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].”

Saatchi & Saatchi was founded in London in 1970 by brothers Maurice and Charles. Its famous adverts include “Labour Isn’t Working”, which helped Margaret Thatcher to victory in 1979, and the Tony Blair “demon eyes” posters in 1996. Its clients include HSBC, EE and British Gas. It was taken over by Publicis in 2000 and now has more than than 6,500 employees.

Arthur Sadoun, the chief executive of Publicis Communications, the division that oversees Saatchi & Saatchi, criticised Roberts heavily.

“The way Kevin’s remarks were expressed I find offensive in terms of language and tonality. Behaviour like this is simply unacceptable in our Groupe,” Sadoun wrote in an internal note to staff.

“I am sorry that the comments made by Kevin have reflected poorly upon the Groupe and our culture. His views couldn’t be further from the truth about our commitment and feelings about gender diversity. I am very proud of being part of the Groupe, which is doing so much on gender equality, but I acknowledge that we, our industry and business at large are not where we need to be or where we aspire to be.

“This is an issue of critical importance to the Publicis Groupe and we are committed to being a role model. We have much more to do on this issue; it is a priority for me and all of Publicis Groupe leadership.”

The chief executives running all six of the big advertising agency holding companies are men. A survey conducted by The 3% Conference in 2014 found women made up 46.4% of the advertising industry workforce, but only 11.5% of creative directors were female. The group, which champions female leadership, derives its name from the fact that just 3% of creative directors were women when it was founded in 2010.

Saatchi & Saatchi’s global chief creative director is Kate Stanners, and the company’s New York office is headed by a woman, Andrea Diquez. About 65% of Saatchi’s staff are female, compared with a split of about 50-50 at the parent group.

Lisen Stromberg, the acting chief operating officer of The 3% Conference, applauded Publicis and Lévy for refusing to tolerate gender bias.

Jan Gooding, the group brand director at the UK insurer Aviva, also lauded Gallop for speaking up, saying on Twitter that “problems flow from the top”.

Al MacCuish, the co-founder of the Sunshine agency, tweeted: “Unconscious bias? He’s just unconscious. His opinion doesn’t represent our business, our reality or our future.”

— Al MacCuish (@al_maccuish) July 30, 2016

@ClaireBeale @cindygallop Unconscious bias? He's just unconscious. His opinion doesn't represent our business, our reality or our future.

Vertical ambition: are women really ruining their chances at work?

Saatchi & Saatchi’s executive chairman, Kevin Roberts, has been suspended after using the phrase to explain why female professionals don’t reach leadership roles

Name: Vertical ambition.

Age: As old as business itself.

Appearance: White, male and inexplicably proud of it.

“Vertical ambition” sounds like a team name from The Apprentice. You’re close, in that it’s slick and meaningless and sounds as if it might have something to do with sex.

What is it? It’s a win-at-all-costs mentality, where your life is judged on your ability to gain and hoard power through a series of ruthlessly earned promotions.

That sounds awful. I thought you’d say that. Are you a woman?

That’s none of your business. I’m just saying, because most women don’t have very much vertical ambition, do they?

Hang on ... These aren’t my words. Saatchi & Saatchi’s executive chairman, Kevin Roberts, said it, in an interview about why he wasn’t worried about the lack of women in leadership roles.

What did he say? A lot, including: “We have a bunch of talented, creative females, but they reach a certain point in their careers ... 10 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...’ Their ambition is not a vertical ambition, it’s this intrinsic, circular ambition to be happy.”

So women aren’t being shut out of leadership jobs because they’re working in an industry that’s systematically stacked against them. That’s right. In actual fact, women are shutting themselves out because they don’t like the idea of mercilessly climbing the career ladder every single day of their lives until they can finally reach their desired endpoint of being exactly like Kevin Roberts. Who knew?

Yuck. He also said that Cindy Gallop, who campaigns for women’s issues within the advertising industry, was “making up a lot of the stuff to create a profile, and to take applause”.

Has this gone down well at Saatchi & Saatchi? Absolutely not. He has been asked to take a leave of absence.

Do I have vertical ambition? Here’s a test: you’re up for promotion against your grandmother. Do you slit her throat in her sleep to ensure victory?

God! No! Then you don’t. I hope you can live with that.

Do say: “The executive chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi might not completely understand women.”

Don’t say: “Maybe this explains why Olay adverts are so rubbish.”

by on Aug. 4, 2016 at 6:56 AM
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by Platinum Member on Aug. 4, 2016 at 7:54 AM

Gee, surprise surprise, a male who lacks an accurate understanding of the female situation. 

I don't think he should have been put on leave, that seems an overreaction to me based on what the quote says here and I don't think he was expressing anything that most men and maybe even women tend to believe.  While he made some prettty absurd generalizations, there unfortunately is some truth to what he says because....

Women are responsible for the vast majority of unpaid work in this world and we tend to just accept it.   Sometimes its a choice- plenty of women, myself included made/make a choice to stay home with our kids but child rearing is only one part of the amount of unpaid work we are expected to do. 

So it is our work days and careers that tend to get interrupted, delayed, put on hold.  

Not all women nor men are ambitious.  Not everyone derives their happiness from climbing the corporate ladder.  However, there is no doubt though that the road is harder for ambitious women who want to further their careers than it is for men and that is what he apparently fails to recognize.

by Silver Member on Aug. 4, 2016 at 9:45 AM
1 mom liked this

Is "so rubbish" a phrase?

by "Dude!" on Aug. 4, 2016 at 9:51 AM
Glad this was addressed swiftly and determinedly.
by "Dude!" on Aug. 4, 2016 at 9:52 AM
It will be after I start using it as often as possible.

Quoting RaverLady:

Is "so rubbish" a phrase?

by Silver Member on Aug. 4, 2016 at 9:55 AM
In British slang, yes.

Quoting RaverLady:

Is "so rubbish" a phrase?

by Platinum Member on Aug. 4, 2016 at 11:59 AM
I think there is some truth to what he said. I hear all the time about women not wanting to work at jobs that don't make them happy. They want to "do what they love" and not what will support themselves. Or if they do what they love them they can't possibly put a value on it.

There are also studies that show women do not put as much value on their achievements as men do. So I do think there is some truth to what he said ... At lest that portion.
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