Written by Alex Fleming - Managing Director at Adecco Retail

Kevin Roberts, Executive Chairman of advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi, recently resigned from his post following controversial comments suggesting the lack of women in senior positions within the advertising industry is simply down to the fact that they do not want these level roles.

He suggested they would rather be involved in the ‘actual work’ rather than management, whilst maintaining a more balanced life outside the office.

Mr Roberts had been in charge of Saatchi & Saatchi for over 20 years, a company which can boast above average figures for female participation within its workforce. Almost two in three employees (65%) are female and nearly one in three are in senior management positions, according to the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).

The figures for most senior roles in the industry do not make for such positive reading however. All six major advertising agency holding company CEOs are male. A survey conducted by The 3% Conference in 2014 found women make up 46.4% of the advertising industry, yet only 11.5% of creative directors within ad agencies are female.

In 2004 just 3% of creative directors were female, so there has been a marked improvement in the sector, however figures still remain low considering female participation in the workforce.

Saatchi & Saatchi provide a positive comparison with Kate Stanners currently acting as the company’s Chief Creative Officer. She disagreed with Mr Robert’s view believing women need greater encouragement and support throughout their career journey to reach those senior positions.

Research by the Young Creative Council found that 70% of young female creative have never worked with a female creative director or executive creative director and almost nine in ten say they lack role models.

Saatchi & Saatchi’s parent company issued a statement saying that promoting gender equality starts at the top with Diversity & Inclusion standing as a business imperative.

Alex Fleming says:
The UK workforce is becoming increasingly diverse at all levels. The Davies Report has now encouraged ALL FTSE100 boards to include at least one female director and has now moved onto the FTSE250, so the discussion is definitely not over in any industry. On a personal level, I have been supported throughout my time at Adecco. I have been given every opportunity to grow and improve myself by the management team around me and now enjoy a position on the board of a FTSE250 company.