Sexual harassment in the workplace has been all over the news in recent weeks. Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes resigned following allegations that he sexually harassed more than a dozen women at the network, including Gretchen Carlson.
And more recently, Donald Trump was roundly criticized for saying that his daughter, Ivanka Trump, "would find another career; find another company" if she were harassed on the job.
Questions of sexual harassment and sexism have also reached advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi. The company's chairman, Kevin Roberts came under fire after he said gender equality was "not an issue" in an interview with Business Insider earlier this month. He announced this week that he would resign his position effective September 1.
Roberts told Business Insider he believed the debate over gender diversity in advertising is "all over." He also suggested that women hold only 12 percent of creative director positions in the industry because women don't want to take on management positions. Before he resigned, Saatchi & Saatchi's parent company, Publicis, placed Roberts on leave.
But Roberts didn't just broadly paint gender inequality as a non-issue, he also dismissed the work of advertising consultant Cindy Gallop, who campaigns for gender equality in the industry.
"I think she's got problems that are of her own making. She's making up a lot of the stuff to create a profile, and to take applause, and to get on a soap[box]," he said.
Gallop, who is the former president of the ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, didn't take too kindly to that. And now that Roberts has resigned, she has a message for Saatchi & Saatchi.
“I note that they now have a leadership coach vacancy and I would like to offer my services for this, I'm very happy to be hired in Kevin Roberts' place," she says. "Obviously very importantly, so there's no suggestion of a gender wage gap at all, that would be on the same salary as Kevin Roberts: $4 million.”
Gallop says Roberts’ attitude and stance show the advertising industry still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality.
“Change is not happening, because if change were actually happening in our industry, Kevin Roberts would have never said publicly what he said in that interview,” she says. “I think the very important thing for the industry to understand is that this is not about one bad apple, this is about rot through the top of our industry, and quite a long way down, and that needs to be addressed as a whole.”
The “glacial pace of change,” Gallop says, can be partly attributed to the executive leadership structure within the advertising industry, and in other business sectors across the globe.
“To be frank, I think this is a function of the fact that at the top of our industry and every industry is a closed loop of white guys talking to other white guys about white guys,” Gallop says. “Those white guys up at the top are sitting very pretty — they have their gigantic salaries, huge bonuses, stock options and expense accounts. Why would they ever want to rock the boat? The system is working for them just fine as it is. So this is a way of post-rationalizing why there aren’t any women up there, by saying, ‘Oh, no, no — they don’t want to be.’”
If companies were to broadly push for gender-equal work environments, issues of sexism and sexual harassment would largely work themselves out, Gallop adds.
“When you have a gender-equal working environment, you manage out sexual harassment,” she says. “There’s not the male-dominated, implicit ‘bro’ endorsement that it’s OK for men to behave like that. And secondly, when men engage with women as professional equals and have as many women around them as men, they no longer see women in one of only two roles: girl friend or secretary. That really is the answer.”
While some women may be uncomfortable with being hired just because they are female, Gallop says this type of affirmative action should be celebrated by women.
“My answer to [their discomfort] is ‘get over it,’ because all around you are mediocre men who were hired just because they were men,” she says. “Get hired because you’re a woman or a person of color, and then do the bloody brilliant job in that role that you know you can do, and demonstrate how much you deserve that position.”