Agency boss Kevin Roberts resigns after claiming women prefer not to be in adland management

Less than a week after making outspoken comments denying there was an issue in gender discrimination in adland management, the global boss of Saatchi & Saatchi and chief coach of holding company Publicis Groupe Kevin Roberts has resigned.

Photographer Juan Carrera | Source:

Photographer Juan Carrera | Source:

The announcement came in a short press statement from Publicis. It stated:

August 3, 2016 – PARIS – Publicis Groupe announced today the resignation of Kevin Roberts Head Coach de Publicis Groupe, Executive Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi/Fallon, Member of the Management Board.
The Supervisory Board and the Chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe took note of Kevin Robert’s decision to step down with effect from September 1st 2016, prior to his retirement date due in May 2017.

Roberts’ career came to a sudden end after he gave an interview to Business Insider which was published last weekend in which he suggested “the fucking debate is all over” and women are happier in non-executive roles.

Within hours he was suspended by Publicis, where he held a dual role as the holding company’s “head coach” – giving him a say in the career development of its 80,000 global employees – and chairman of its creative agency Saatchi & Saatchi.

Kevin Roberts resigns

Roberts’ career previously included a seven year stint running Lion Nathan in Australia and New Zealand.

Publicis agencies in Australia include Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, Razorfish, Starcom and ZO.

On Saturday Business Insider published an interview with Roberts in which he responded to a question about gender diversity in the industry by claiming “the fucking debate is all over”. He also attacked diversity campaigner Cindy Gallop – who recently spoke at Mumbrella360 – as “making up a lot of stuff to create a profile”.

The key quotes from the Business Insider Interview:

“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.”

“Edward de Bono once told me there is no point in being brilliant at the wrong thing — the fucking debate is all over. This is a diverse world, we are in a world where we need, like we’ve never needed before, integration, collaboration, connectivity, and creativity … this will be reflected in the way the Groupe is.”

On Cindy Gallop: “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].”

“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’,”


Roberts also issued a statement. It said:

“Fail Fast, Fix Fast, Learn Fast” is a leadership maxim I advocate.

When discussing with Business Insider evolving career priorities and new ways of work/life integration, I failed exceptionally fast.

My miscommunication on a number of points has caused upset and offense, and for this I am sorry.

I have inadvertently embarrassed Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis Groupe, two companies I love and have been devoted to for almost 20 years.

I have expressed my regret and apology to the companies for the furor my remarks and language stimulated, and I extend this to colleagues, staff and clients.

So that we can all move forward, I am bringing forward my May 1, 2017, retirement from the company, and will leave the Groupe on September 1, 2016.

There is a lot of learning to reflect on, and within the thousands of tweets, comments and articles there are many powerful and passionate contributions on the changing nature of the workplace, the work we do, what success really looks like, and what companies must do to provide women and men the optimal frameworks in which to flourish.

I believe that new thinking, frameworks and measures are needed to make more rapid progress on diversity in all its forms, in all professions and occupations. Hopefully, the focus on this serious and complex issue will gather momentum.

Gallop later commented saying: “I’m pleased to see that Kevin Roberts has resigned, given that his comments made him non-credible as a chairman charged with inspiring, motivating and promoting into leadership the thousands of women who work for Saatchi and Saatchi worldwide.

“However, given he was forced to resign, Publicis Groupe would have made a greater statement to every woman working within their network, at every client brand they represent, and to the industry as a whole, if they had fired him.”


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