Saatchi & Saatchi has an opportunity to effect radical change for equality in the advertising industry after Kevin Roberts' resignation, a New York-based marketing consultant says.
The New Zealander was put on leave after saying in an interview that gender bias in the advertising industry did not exist.
Mr Roberts told the online newspaper Business Insider he did not spend time on gender issues at his agencies and said the debate was over.
He said many women did not have a "vertical ambition" and instead had only a "circular ambition to be happy".
His employer, French multinational Publicis Groupe which Saatchi & Saatchi is a subsidiary of, asked him to take a leave of absence immediately after his comments which it said did not match its promotion of gender equality.
In a statement late last night, the company said Mr Roberts had resigned as head coach of Publicis, chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, and from the management board.
Call for industry to make radical changes
New York based marketing consultant Cindy Gallop said there was now an opportunity for industry leaders to be seen effecting radical, immediate change.
"I would like to see Maurice Levy [Publicis CEO] , I would like to see Publicis Groupe, and I would like to see Saatchi & Saatchi worldwide actively taking action very quickly in the weeks ahead to demonstrate how much their culture is not reflective of Kevin Roberts' remarks," she said.
"It's enormously damaging when someone like Kevin Roberts claims that the diversity debate is over and women have no desire to be leaders, because at the top of our industry is a closed loop of white guys, talking to white guys about other white guys."
"So this is absolutely not about one bad apple, this is about stopping the rot that is endemic to the top of our industry and that is having a very very negative impact on all the rest of the industry, including our abililty to redefine a far better, a far more creative, and a far more lucrative future for ourselves."
She said those white men at the top were sitting pretty with enormous salaries, huge bonuses, stock options, and expense accounts.
"And so, what they do is post-rationalise why the old world order should continue just as it is, because the old world order and the system as it is - is working just fine for them."
"That gives other white men in power a reason to continue to exclude women and people of colour from leadership. It continues to dishearten people of colour to aspire to that leadership.
"And let me say very emphatically here that women burn with just as much ambition to get to the top, to set the agenda for our industry and be able to steer large companies with our own vision just as much as men."
She noted Saatchi & Saatchi now had a leadership coach vacancy and was very happy to offer her services, obviously at the same salary.
Mr Roberts' resignation would take effect from 1 September. He was due to retire in May next year.