As Saatchi’s agency chairman Kevin Roberts was “put on leave” this weekend over his remarks in an interview with Business Insider on female ambition which did not “value the importance of inclusion”, I wonder if I’m the only woman feeling slightly uneasy at Roberts’ turbo-banishment? Hoiking men from public life at a moment’s notice for being unable to give completely 100 per cent satisfactory answers on head-bangingly complex gender issues does not, I fear, help women’s road to equality. It makes us look like a sinister, peculiarly thin-skinned, laughably volatile Lidl-brand Stazi.
Roberts’ heinous crime, it seems, was to attempt to explain the advertising world’s lack of females in the highest positions. There are certainly some female ad bigwigs, Roberts said, but there could be more.
Foolhardily Roberts then skidded off-road into “Tim Hunt abandon-ye-career here” territory by saying that at Saatchi &Saatchi he’d met a number of talented women who “reach a certain point in their careers” and rejected the chance to become creative directors. “They are going ‘actually guys, you’re missing the point, you don’t understand: I’m way happier than you,’” he explained. “Their ambition is not a vertical ambition; it’s this intrinsic, circular ambition to be happy.”
We do not know any more of Roberts’ thoughts as he was quickly escorted to “Shamed Man Gulag #231”, policed by a number of perma-furious turquoise-haired fourth-wave feminists. Each morning since Roberts has been tied to a rickety stool and forced to listen to angsty third studio album by Canadian songstress Alanis Morrisette, Jagged Little Pill, before an arduous afternoon of Elaine Showalter seminars and olive-branch meetings with yowling nerve-jangled women who read Roberts thoughts and can never hope to recover.
Ok, this is not true. Roberts is at home, possibly wondering how his glittering 40-year career path starting as a lad from Lancaster who became a brand manager for Mary Quant, covering a vast array of marketing and advertising lead roles, is now potentially scuppered by a few comments that are partially true. Women do very often settle for a different sort of happiness.
I’ve known dozens of brilliant women who had babies, reduced their hours and did not become magazine publishers, legal partners, board-members or channel controllers, but focused instead on a happy family life. Roberts thoughts are not wholly inaccurate. Are they depressing? Slightly. Are they evidence of the enormous double-bind that says yes, women may have pierced the glass ceiling, but we are still, regardless of evolution, only temporarily fertile? Definitely.