Saatchi chief Roberts sent on leave by Publicis over gender equality remarks

Publicis Groupe said it has put the chairman of its Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency on immediate leave after he was quoted dismissing the debate over gender bias as “over”.

In a wide-ranging interview with Business Insider published at the weekend, the Saatchi & Saatchi executive chairman Kevin Roberts said he does not spend “any time” on gender issues at his agency, saying the issue is “way worse” in sectors such as financial services, where there are “problems left, right, and centre”.

A day later, the Publicis chief executive Maurice Lévy 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. It will ultimately be the Publicis Groupe supervisory board’s duty to further evaluate his standing.”

Mr Roberts’ remarks do not uphold the no-tolerance policy toward behaviour or commentary in the “spirit of Publicis Groupe and its celebration of difference”, according to Mr Lévy.

“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,” Publicis said in a statement, which also was released internally to employees.

Publicis is a multinational advertising and public relations firm based in Paris. It has owned Saatchi & Saatchi since 2000.

Mr Roberts did not respond to an email sent to his work address. Saatchi & Saatchi, based in New York, also did not reply immediately to a request for comment.

Mr Lévy added: “Diversity & inclusion are business imperatives on which Publicis Groupe will not negotiate. 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.”

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