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.