The gender debate is well and truly over

"The gender debate is well and truly over " Those were the words of Saatchi & Saatchi executive Kevin Roberts at an interview with the Business Insider magazine.

Kevin has since found himself in deep waters after making these comments and has since resigned. I was surprised by his comments but then again I should not be because you just have to scratch the surface to realise that this is what a lot of leaders think - mostly men and some women.

Kevin Roberts was Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi – one of the world’s leading creative organizations – and Head Coach of Publicis Groupe, the Paris-based global communications group active in 108 countries and employing more than 80,000 professionals.

So what would make such an experienced leader make such a comment?

The Business Insider notes that all six major advertising agencies have male CEOs and that just 11.5% of creative directors in advertising agencies are female, according to a study by The 3% Conference in 2014.
Working in an industry that lacks diversity coupled with a strong unconscious bias one can easily lose touch with reality and the challenges that other demographics might be facing in the industry.
From my experience running Forward Ladies, it's become apparent that a lot of business leaders only pay lip service to the issue of lack of gender diversity and rarely put their money or time to it.
The gender date is not well and truly over and will not be for a long time if we all don’t actively work together to create a gender-balanced workforce.

Gender balance is not a minority issue. It's a business More than half of the world’s 7 billion people are women, so we need a solution that goes beyond having a women’s network and periodically holding events.

"Female representation on the boards of the FTSE 100 had remained stagnant at 26 per cent. Worse, fewer than a quarter of board appointments between September and March — the best measure of future composition — were women, the lowest since 2011, when the 25 per cent target for the FTSE 100 was set." - Sarah Gordon, FT

I’m glad that Kevin Roberts made these comments. It's reignited the gender debate as it's an area where we are starting to see complacency.
It would be fair to say Kevin Roberts should know better but why should he?
He operates in a bubble.


  • Jay Bhayani says:

    This is exactly the sort of attitude we see all the time as employment law specialists. I have been a lawyer for over 20 years and whilst I accept there are massive advances in protection for women in the workplace this sort of comment from influential people brings home the fact that women are on the whole very disadvantaged.
    Yesterday the news was full of the research on sexual harassment and if anyone is interested in reading our article on the legal implications of sexual harassment in the workplace please follow

  • Harriet says:

    Thank you for sharing your article Jay, it makes for interesting reading! Harriet, Forward Ladies

  • Claudia says:

    Well, we get a woman prime minister and another woman poised to get voted in as leader of the free world and people like Kevin Roberts think 'that's it! Gender equality achieved'. It just goes to show that he doesn't get it. Where there should be a stump to step over, after hundreds, maybe thousand of years of gender inequality, we still have an Everest to conquer. What more can you say!

  • Ann Menzies-Blythe says:

    Qualifying as a wise woman these days, I have been involved in the journey of gender progression as a woman for a number of years.
    Do not be disheartened,it was always going to be a clever patient battle...
    We have come a long way in the last 30 years, many of you would be outraged at the comments and attitudes only decades ago.
    I was head hunted to Yorkshire from London,for the leading newspaper group in the region.As I arrived a man told me that I should be utterly ashamed for taking 'food out of the mouths of a man's children', by taking a man's job... quite apart from the almost routine sexual innuendo. I was once introduced at a top regional function,as the 'token' woman 'on the Board, when I was once of the few women in the UK developing and generating with my team,handling what today would be over 100 millions in Sales.
    I work as an executive transformational coach today, and my clients are largely women ,who have the courage to look inwards to find their strength and balance. They then take that calm assertive balance out to work n a hugely effective way . Don't get angry get clever, manage men by giving them a clear prescription of how it needs to be for you , and the organisation, they need intuitive brilliant guidance... from us the Magnificent Women

    • Amy Jackson says:

      Great reply Ann. I particularly like your advice, 'don’t get angry get clever'. Though I must confess, when reading about your 'token women' intro, my emotional response was close to burning fury. I've now regrouped, taken a sip of coffee, and will continue on with my busy day.

      Nice article and some interesting responses, thank you ladies.

  • Harriet says:

    Some great points raised thank you ladies!

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