Saatchi Global CCO Kate Stanners Says Diversity Still an Issue

Kevin Roberts' Comments 'Upset a Huge Amount of Employees'

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Saatchi & Saatchi is addressing some of the damage done by Executive Chairman Kevin Roberts with the help of its global chief creative officer, Kate Stanners.

Mr. Roberts – who also has the title of "head coach" at Saatchi & Saatchi parent Publicis Groupe – has been put on a leave of absence following his damaging claims that the industry's gender diversity debate is over.

Ms. Stanners spoke to BBC's "Today" show – a radio program that sets the U.K. news agenda for the day – to give a different point of view on the diversity issue.

She said Monday on the "Today" show that there were "a huge amount of employees who have been upset in how they've interpreted Kevin's words" and stressed, "I don't believe in what he's saying."

Credit: BBC Radio 4 via Facebook

Ms. Stanners, who was promoted to the global CCO role in April after Pablo Del Campo left the company and continues as chief creative officer of Saatchi's London office, refuted Mr. Roberts' views, expressed to Business Insider on Friday. She said, "I think women don't bale out. I think we do want the top jobs. I think the most important thing is encouraging women to be more vocal and more high profile so that younger women and women coming through the ranks can see that it is possible and that there is no reason why they can't take these jobs."

She added, "There are different roles in our industry and you make a progression. A lot of things you need to do to encourage women into these roles are more proactive. Things around childcare that might make it harder, and I think people have to work towards making it an environment that encourages women."

According to a January 2016 survey by the U.K.'s agency group, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, women hold 32% of senior management positions at Saatchi & Saatchi -- better than the 25.7% average for creative agencies in the U.K..

Magnus Djaba
Magnus Djaba Credit: Saatchi & Saatchi

Magnus Djaba, the U.K. CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Fallon, also came out in support of the diversity agenda. He said in a statement, "Diversity isn't just a social want, it is a business imperative. The Saatchi London leadership team is testament to that. And I'm not your average white guy, either."

Maurice Lévy, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, said earlier in a statement, "The opinion expressed by Kevin is neither shared nor supported by myself or the Groupe."

However, Mr. Lévy was himself embroiled in a sexism row during the 4As conference in Miami in March, when he denied that the alleged behavior of JWT CEO Gustavo Martinez, the subject of a high profile lawsuit from JWT communications executive Erin Johnson, was representative of problems in the industry as a whole. "It's a one-time mistake, a huge mistake, a huge fault. But it's not a fair representation of the industry," he said.

In 2015, Mr. Roberts was due $3,389,330 in compensation, second only to Mr. Lévy, who was due $4,345,005, according to Publicis Groupe's annual financial report.

Mr. Roberts is one of only four members of the Publicis Groupe management board, alongside secretary general Anne-Gabrielle Heilbronner, EVP Jean-Michel Etienne and Mr. Lévy. (The group's supervisory board, chaired by Elisabeth Badinter, daughter of Publicis founder Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, has 13 members, 6 of whom are women). Publicis Groupe would not comment on whether Mr. Roberts will step down from the board. Mr. Roberts is due to retire in May 2017 at the same time as Mr. Lévy.

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