As Saatchi's Kevin Roberts quits, let's breathe a sigh of relief that there's one less dinosaur boss in charge

SO, another dinosaur bites the dust.

I’m talking about Kevin Roberts, the chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, who has quit in the wake of the furore surrounding his comments about women in advertising.

In a bit of a “There, there, Dear” moment, he attributed the lack of women in high-powered jobs in advertising to the fact that some women lack the “vertical ambition” to make it to the top — in other words, they don’t really want it.

In fact, in the interview he did with Business Insider, he said he doesn’t spend any time on gender issues as the gender diversity debate was over in the advertising world.



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He said some women at key junctures in their careers did not want to lead businesses and people, and that managers should reflect on how to deal with the ambitions of female and male employees who “simply want to be happy and do great work”.

Funnily enough, I used to work at Saatchi & Saatchi. It was 1988 and I had a very junior position from which I surveyed the culture.

Back then it was a typical Mad Men type organisation — men at the top and women as secretaries. In particular, I remember coming in one morning when it was one of the creative executive’s birthdays.

His present, if you can believe it, was . . . a prostitute!

She had to sit in the corner wearing stockings, suspenders and high heels with a sign on saying, “Happy Birthday, I’m your present”.

The shocking thing was that no one was shocked — but that’s the Eighties for you.

The thing is, though, just like smoking on the Tube and sunbathing with olive oil (not to mention acid-washed jeans and legwarmers), many things that were OK then are plain wrong now.

Roberts just didn’t get the memo, apparently.

This view — that women just want to be happy (no doubt partly by raising children) and men want to be ambitious — is the kind of passive-aggressive view fairly typical in a man who was born in 1949, as Roberts was, and who sees what he wants to see.

It is a way of justifying a set-up and expectations that are inherently sexist by attributing them to a lack of ambition in women.

I know I am not the first person to flag up the fact that we still live in a world where it’s not OK to be a bit homophobic or racist but somehow it’s still OK to be sexist.

But that is only going to change when change is forced. Equality and diversity in an organisation start at the top with senior management.

So I was over the moon when Maurice Levy, chief executive of Publicis Groupe, said that the company doesn’t tolerate anyone who does not value the importance of inclusion.

And that’s why Roberts had to go: views such as this are just not acceptable and, by the way, must surely have had an influence on the culture over which he reigned.

His bosses taking action like this is a strong message to the world that the views of the individuals are not the views of the company.

It’s reminding me of Richard Keys and Andy Gray, who were sacked by Sky for making sexist comments on air — one of which, incidentally, was about me — while they thought their microphones were off.

Their reputations were in tatters after and that was as it should be. It’s vital for big organisations to show sexism will not be tolerated.

Still, there’s no doubt in the meantime that equality in the creative world of advertising is a work in progress.

It’s simple – women do want top jobs.

According to recruitment consultancy Propel’s recent Digital Salary & Industry Insights survey, the gender pay gap in the digital creative sector is approximately 18 per cent, widening as the roles become more senior.

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising found that only 24.6 per cent of creative teams are staffed by women, with only 12-14 per cent in creative directorship roles. And female creative partners or chairs on company boards are even thinner on the ground.

Obviously if you ask someone like Roberts why this is, he’d put it down to their lack of “vertical ambition” and women’s “intrinsic, circular ambition to be happy”.

For one thing, Roberts seems to have missed the fact that in the modern world, women can actually succeed in business AND have a family because their husband does his fair share or they have help from family, or elsewhere.

But also, it’s simple. Women do want top jobs — and if they don’t have them, it is not because of lack of ambition.

One thing is certain: with a dinosaur boss like that in charge, no women will ever get ahead or find an even playing field. So let’s breathe a sigh of relief that Roberts has put himself out to pasture.

Out with the old, in with the new.


London leaves Rio standing

I FEEL for Olympics officials in Rio, but the difficulties they’ve had getting things shipshape in time for the games is really shining a light on the legacy of London 2012.

Preparing to host the Olympics is never going to be plain sailing, of course, but it’s clearer than ever that it would take something truly remarkable to eclipse London 2012, which was a complete and utter triumph.

The organisation was exemplary, the venues were packed out and the public embraced the whole thing from beginning to end.

It was a proud, proud time for the country and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.

But fast-forward four years and it’s clear that one of the best things about the 2012 games is how it lives on.

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in 2016 is a thriving hub for business, education, family fun, the arts – and, of course football. And West Ham are honoured to be a focal part of that.

Our new home is simply magnificent.

Last week we welcomed European football and today we welcome Juventus and brought almost 110,000 visitors to the Park, including thousands of Newham residents, all enjoying their spectacular new surrounds.

We’ve more than 52,000 season ticket holders and we’ll have capacity 60,000 crowds, week in week out.

It’s been a long road, but now West Ham have taken up residence I assure you that you’ll really start to see the results of the sporting legacy that was promised in Singapore when our capital city was awarded the Games.

It’s just a reminder that London 2012 really was the gift that keeps on giving.


Taylor made me so happy

AS a teenager I was a massive Duran Duran fan, by which I mean in particular a massive fan of John Taylor.

So imagine my dismay when I was invited to a charity event that he was due to be at – and I couldn’t make it.

And imagine my excitement when my friend, who did go, had John sign a programme for me.

He wrote, “Hi Karren, What’s up, homegirl? Love, John.” I repeat, “Love, John.”

I have no idea what a homegirl is but what does that matter? It catapulted me back in time from 47 years old to a giggling schoolgirl.

Thanks, John.


The rise and rise of older women

I AMloving the rise and rise of women of a certain age – the latest example being Glynis Barber, who at 60 looksamazing.

Only a decade ago, women in their fifties and sixties were largely forgotten – out of sight and mind and they certainly couldn’t get jobs on TV.

But now there is a new generation of women – I’m talking the likes of Helen Mirren, Christie Brinkley and Sharon Stone – who are educated, know how to look after themselves andjust ooze confidence.

It’s amazing to see and, frankly, it makes me feel like we’ve all got lots to look forward to.

Vanity is a form of control

I WAS seriously unimpressed to read about Donovan Nelson, the 56-year-old man who spends nearly £20,000 a year on his appearance.

That includes pectoral implants, liposuction and his fees for three personal trainers.

There’s no problem with that – whatever floats your boat, after all.

But the thing that annoyed me is that he says he does all this to keep his younger 35-year-old wife on her toes – and to make sure she stays fit, too.

I am married to a professional athlete who has less than six per cent body fat. I have never been to the gym and the very idea of my husband putting me under pressure to do anything at all is unimaginable.

I read this story and saw, “I love me – who do you love?”

But instead of admitting to his unbelievable vanity, he’s indirectly blaming his wife, implying that his fitness regime is a way of keeping her in check. Yuck.


Brits become light-fingered thanks to self checkouts

APPARENTLY, self- service checkouts are turning us into a nation of thieves.

That’s according to a Leicester University reportwhich reveals that a shop’s losses are more than double when self-service technology is used.

I’ve never stolen anything in my life.But I know what it is like to be one of those people trying to serve ourselves with a scanner that doesn’t work, in a supermarket without a human being in sight to help.

We can allprobably see that even the most Honest John in the world might just get so frustrated that they walk out with their baked beans in hand and not a backwards glance.

Generous tribute to Robin

I WAS sad to see the news that Robin Chard, a cancer survivor who was taking part in Ride London, collapsed and died from a cardiac arrest during the event.

But people’s responses have been pretty amazing.

He had a £400 target he hoped to raise but, as I write this, more than £63,000 has been donated through his Just Giving page.

Say what you want about the British, but we are a nation of fantastically generous people and that is something we should be very proud of.

What a shame Robin died doing something so wonderful, but his death will not be in vain.

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