I am a female CEO and I'm horrified by Kevin Roberts' comments

When I read Saatchi & Saatchi's executive chairman Kevin Roberts' comments on diversity, I was at first shocked, then horrified, then angry and then very, very sad.

Kevin Roberts is wrong – the gender debate is far from over, argues Denise Kaufmann
Kevin Roberts is wrong – the gender debate is far from over, argues Denise Kaufmann
I am a CEO.   

I get asked a lot what it is like to be a woman and a CEO and I get confused by the question: would anybody ever ask that of a man? Probably not.

But as I get asked, I’d like to very clearly state my point of view about this subject: women want to be treated the same as men. We want equal opportunities. We want equal pay.  

Whether we choose to climb the career ladder all the way to the top or not is not the issue; we want to know that we have an equal playing field and if getting to the top is indeed our ambition, we get there based on our own merit and hard work.

What probably offended me the most about Roberts’ comments was that he actually believes that the gender issue is over. 

Given the backlash over the past few days, the issue is very much alive and one we need to keep at the forefront if we are going to reach gender parity in this industry or around the world.

Last year, the World Economic Forum predicted that the gender gap would not reach parity until 2133.   
That is 117 years from now. That is just not acceptable. Men and women need to fight for equality.
 
Successful women need to mentor and teach young women coming up in our business that anything is possible and that if you apply yourself, work hard and stay engaged, you can do anything that you want. 

We need to provide women with the support and inspiration that they need to become the leaders of the future by tackling some of the big issues around parity, around resilience and around the importance of being yourself as you assume more responsibilities and higher leadership positions. 

I live in hope that we’ll get there sooner than expected. I will continue to mentor. I will continue to fight.   Until it is well and truly over.

Denise Kaufmann is chief executive of Ketchum London

Kevin Roberts announced in a statement this morning that he is stepping down in September, ahead of his planned retirement in May 2017

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