Written by Sophie Hodgson

The issue when writing a response to something provocative and inflammatory is that there is always the risk you’ll come across as well, basically, having a bit of a rant. I won’t lie, when I read Saatchi CEO, Kevin Roberts’ comments that implied women simply wanted to be happy and lacked vertical ambition my blood boiled. But not for the reasons you might expect.

The outage Roberts has sparked is understandable. Chief Executive Maurice Levy has put him on leave and a suitably senior female employee in the form of Kate Stanners, Global Chief Creative Officer, was rolled out to speak on the Today programme. Publicis is currently deploying the crisis comms strategy it’s used to advising clients on.

However, I feel that in the wider debate about his comments on women (which make me want to hit my head repeatedly against a brick wall) something has been missed. What’s wrong with striving to be happy? Our working lives have changed beyond belief. More and more people are leaving highly paid jobs to follow their dreams of being a yoga teacher, interior designer or nutritionist. They are making business out of their passion. And they’re happy doing it. Plus I’d argue starting your own business is hardly slacking off. Others are negotiating more flexible hours that work for them and their lifestyle, forcing employers to value output over time spent in the office. Technology has broken down traditional barriers and is pioneering a new working norm.

Therefore why can’t we – men and women – be vertically ambitious and happy? In the digital world we live in, the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. My issue with Roberts is that he thinks he gets to define with a rather generic paintbrush what is ambitious and what is not. For men and women. And that’s not on.

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