The chairman of advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi has been put on leave for saying the debate on gender bias in the industry is “all over”.
British-born Kevin Roberts told business insider he did not think the lack of women in leadership roles “is a problem” in the advertising industry.
The head of the company’s parent group, Publicis, said it would not tolerate anyone who did not value inclusion.
The group said it would decide whether to take further action.
In the interview, published on Friday, Mr Roberts said the “debate is all over” about gender diversity in the advertising industry.
He goes on to say that rather than holding ambitions to progress into the higher echelons of management, many women – and men – simply want to be happy and “do great work”.
He adds: “…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.”
“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,” Publicis chief executive Maurice Levy said.
“As a member of The Directoire, it will ultimately be the Publicis Groupe Supervisory Board’s duty to further evaluate his standing.”
He added: “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. “