Can Kevin Roberts’ comments lead adland into a Renaissance?

Suspended Saatchi & Saatchi boss Kevin Roberts can come back from his comments about women not wanting top management roles by owning his error publicly, argues Bec Brideson.

Last week Kevin Roberts shoved his foot in his mouth when he proclaimed that the gender debate was over in the ad industry. His contention continued that Cindy Gallop was somehow using the subject to create attention for herself rather than altruistically champion its relevance in our future.

I wonder, does he think that the communications industry is impervious to the global gender studies from Catalyst, EY and McKinsey?

Bec Brideson

At Gallop’s behest, yet another social media furore unfolded as women and men, set about tweeting him thoughts about the archaic views of this dinosaur. This online outrage is becoming a preferred method of publicly highlighting unacceptable issues.

And though I participated with my own sense of first-hand frustration, it dawned on me that these mistakes made public are actually the way we adjust, refine and remodel our future.

Maurice Levy has gone into crisis mode placing the great Saatchi’s guru, Roberts, on indefinite leave. He has now become our latest patsy for the evolving conversation regarding gender inequality.kevin-roberts-saatchikevin image

His ignorance is now another woman’s opportunity to prove why we must continue the conversation. And this is real progress.

The knock-on effect is that Kat Gordon will have her 3% Conference work globally acknowledged. It places female champions such as Wendy Clarke, Lauren Connolly and champions of change such a Brad Jakeman in a place of further prominence.

The winds of change are exhilarating.

As a consultant teaching the economic upside of women, I see an enormous amount of industries and businesses recognise that new attitudes and methodology must prevail. It is heartening to see that progressive management teams seek counsel in the way in which we approach gender on many different levels.

Holden is one of Australia's top sponsors

Eddie Mcguire, Steve Price and recently the Brighton Grammar Instagram boys have become the Trojan horses that have allowed us to penetrate the walls of “white male privilege” and move this conversation into a place of true enlightenment.

The way Holden handled the sponsorship of Collingwood after the ill-conceived commentary on Caroline Wilson shows visionary brilliance. Rather than use it, prima facie, to deprive the club through public humiliation, the brand behaved in a way we can all learn from. They used it as an opportunity to grow and redress the lack of parity between gender, with affirmative action.

Similarly, Karl Stefanovic showed grace under fire last week. His sincere and humble apology after his misuse of old but insulting terminology and attitudes toward the LGBTQI community set a new standard for “owning ignorance”. His self-reflection and insight have inched us ever forward to a better understanding of the progress we are making with diversity and tolerance.

As we evolve from past constructs, with origins developed by a largely masculine workforce, it is inevitable that we encounter more and more outdated attitudes bred in a different era. It’s time we reframe the foolishness of the uninitiated as occasions to learn.

Will this be Kevin Roberts’ legacy? Will we remember these remarks he made about women and not his service to industry through his ‘Lovemarks’? I would hope that over the coming days, Roberts chooses to show us his willingness to become a role model through change.

Should he choose to use this perfect storm he will transform his brand from pale, stale and male to enlightened, awareness-heightened and not-frightened.

We are truly in a time of a new Renaissance.

Bec Brideson is a marketing-to-women pioneer helping brands and business leverage the growing female economy with more than 20 years advertising experience and insight. Bec is head of her own agency and was one of only 3% of females to attain the title of creative director

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