Kevin Roberts has a new job. Cindy Gallop still doesn't have an apology.
Kat Gordon is a Creative Director turned social change entrepreneur who has been named "Visionary of the Year" by Advertising Age and one of "30 Most Creative Women in Advertising" by Business Insider. 12 years ago, she launched The 3% Movement to spotlight the enormous underrepresentation of women in creative leadership. Through the movement's events, research and culture consulting, female creative directors now account for 29% of the industry. Kat lives in Napa Valley where she coaches creative leaders and hosts creative retreats. She has two young adult sons and a Black Lab named Trixie.
Well, well, well.
Headlines today report that Kevin Roberts was just named Chairman of Beattie Group, a UK PR agency. They're pleased as punch: "We are delighted to have recruited one of the world’s most inspirational business minds to help us expand in the UK, North America and Australasia."
This comes less than a year after Roberts was placed on leave by Publicis Groupe, following an interview with Business Insider in which he made sexist remarks about gender diversity in advertising, stating that "the fucking debate is all over" and claiming that women lack ambition for top leadership roles. He also claimed that Cindy Gallop was publicizing the issue of sexism to build her own brand and that "she's got problems that are of her own making."
I remember when this hit because my phone immediately began blowing up. Here was my statement to the press:
"Just this week, The 3 Percent Conference started analyzing over 500 responses we got about sexism and gender bias in the ad world as a result of our 'Elephant on Madison Avenue' survey. I can say with complete statistical backup that Mr. Roberts is wrong about gender bias being solved in the ad world. He's wrong about Cindy Gallop making up stories to desperately seek the spotlight. And he's wrong to speak for a demographic to which he doesn't belong. I know that Cindy speaks the truth because I, too, hear stories about sexual harassment and gender bias in agencies on an almost daily basis. In fact, within the last two years, I was contacted by a plaintiff's lawyer to provide testimony against a male CCO at an agency in the Publicis network being accused of sexual harassment. These things are happening. Women who speak up about them do not have issues of their own. I hope Mr. Roberts will recognize his mistake and make a sincere public apology to Cindy Gallop and to the women within the Publicis network."
Mr. Roberts has never apologized to Cindy Gallop, either privately or publicly, and neither Publicis Groupe nor Saatchi replied to her tweets where she tagged them.
Why didn't Kevin Roberts say I'm sorry?
Two words that show respect and start repair.
Much as Roberts shouldn't have spoken for a demographic to which he doesn't belong, I won't speak for him. I will merely wonder about him. And I will present Exhibit A for why I suspect an apology isn't part of the repair process for Roberts and other high-profile men.
The image below is from Gustavo Martinez's public Facebook page, bearing a message of solidarity after the JWT lawsuit from none other than Neil French, another exiled ad man who resigned from his position as a worldwide Creative Director at WPP after making sexist comments to an audience in Toronto in 2005.
Here's what Neil advised Gustavo in the eye of his own sexism storm.
This, too, shall pass.
Such certainty that the PC police would settle down.
Carry on being you, at all costs.
No need to take an inventory of your behavior and make amends. Keep on keeping on.
Apparently some men don't apologize because they don't have to. The world forgives them and moves on.
Let me make a few things perfectly clear:
- 3% doesn't celebrate when men lose their jobs.
- No one is above reproach when it comes to sexism in the ad world -- no holding company, agency or individual. It's a pervasive problem which means it belongs to all of us.
- The only way forward is to see the problem, address it, and if you've made a mistake to make repair. Apologize to those you harmed, even if unintentionally.
- Kevin Roberts having a new job isn't necessarily the problem. Cindy Gallop not having an apology is.