Saatchi & Saatchi chairman Kevin Roberts resigns following gender debate storm, admitting 'there is a lot of learning to reflect on'

Kevin Roberts is to leave Saatchi &Saatchi following a controversial interview he gave to Business Insider / Kevin Roberts is to leave Saatchi and Saatchi following a controversial interview he gave to Business Insider

Publicis Groupe has confirmed that Saatchi and Saatchi chairman Kevin Roberts will resign from his role following controversy around his comments on women in the industry.

Following an interview with Business Insider in which Roberts claimed the gender debate was "done," Publicis Groupe last week granted him a leave of absence from the company.

But, today (3 August) it stated that the agency boss was to step down permanently.

"Publicis Groupe announced today the resignation of Kevin Roberts head coach of Publicis Groupe, executive chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi/Fallon, member of the management board," read the announcement.

"The Supervisory Board and the chairman and chief executive of Publicis Groupe took note of Kevin Roberts decision to step down with effect from September 1 2016, prior to his retirement date due in May 2017."

The Saatchi & Saatchi boss hit the headlines over the weekend and caused a storm on Twitter after remarking to Business Insider that sexism was worse in other sectors than it was in the advertising industry.

Roberts had not commented publicly since the article was published. However, he released a statement alongside Publicis, apologising for his comments and saying "there is a lot to learn from".

"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."

​He also attracted criticism for his suggestion that that prominent industry diversity activist and former BBH chair of BBH New York Cindy Gallop makes a lot of stuff up "to create a profile, and to take applause," adding that he believed many women are not interested in leadership roles.

This story is breaking and more coverage will follow.

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Rebecca Stewart

Rebecca Stewart is a reporter at The Drum. Based in London, she writes news, analysis and features around brand marketing and digital innovation. She has interviewed key figures from the likes of Airbnb, Amnesty International, Unilever, Facebook and Spotify, as well as covering international events like Ad Week Europe, Dmexco and Ciclope.

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