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Saatchi & Saatchi chairman placed on leave after gender comments

The executive chairman of global communications agency Saatchi & Saatchi has been placed on leave after making controversial remarks about women in the workforce.

Kevin Roberts, who is also the "head coach" of Saatchi & Saatchi's parent company Publicis Groupe, told Business Insider on Friday that women employees lacked "vertical ambition."

"Their ambition is not a vertical ambition, it's this intrinsic, circular ambition to be happy," he said during an interview focusing on gender diversity in the advertising industry.

"So they say: 'We are not judging ourselves by those standards that you idiotic dinosaur-like men judge yourself by'. I don't think (the lack of women in leadership roles) is a problem. I'm just not worried about it because they are very happy, they're very successful, and doing great work. I can't talk about sexual discrimination because we've never had that problem, thank goodness," he added.

Kevin Roberts
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Publicis Groupe issued a statement on Sunday in which it challenged and distanced itself from Roberts' comments, however.

"Following the comments made by Saatchi & Saatchi Executive Chairman and Publicis Groupe Head Coach, Kevin Roberts … Publicis Groupe Chairman & CEO, Maurice Levy addressed a statement internally to all Publicis Groupe employees to reiterate the Groupe's no-tolerance policy towards behavior or commentary counter to the spirit of Publicis Groupe and its celebration of difference," the statement said.

"It is for the gravity of these statements that Kevin Roberts has been asked to take a leave of absence from Publicis Groupe effective immediately," the group said, adding that it would be up to its supervisory board to "further evaluate his standing."

The group added that diversity and inclusion were "business imperatives on which Publicis Groupe will not negotiate" and that it was "leadership's job to nurture the career aspirations and goals of all our talent."

"Promoting gender equality starts at the top and the Groupe will not tolerate anyone speaking for our organization who does not value the importance of inclusion," it said.

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