Times caption: Jo Wallace, the creative director, said that she wanted to destroy the agency’s “boys’ club” reputation
A piece in today’s Times by Matthew Moore, Media Correspondent:
A group of white, male advertising executives have accused their agency of discrimination after being made redundant amid a diversity drive.
The men claim that they lost their jobs at J Walter Thompson (JWT) London, one of Britain’s leading agencies, after a female boss vowed to challenge its “Knightsbridge boys’ club” notoriety.
Jo Wallace, JWT’s creative director, told a diversity conference in May that she wanted to “obliterate” its reputation as an agency full of white, privileged, straight, British men.
The agency, part of the global advertising behemoth WPP, pledged to radically improve its diversity record after revealing a “horrible” median gender pay gap of 44.7 per cent in favour of men, among the worst in the advertising industry. The gender pay figures put “a rocket up the arse of all the diversity plans at JWT”, Ms Wallace and a colleague told the Creative Equals conference. She introduced herself to the conference audience as a gay woman, according to media reports.
The men alleging discrimination claim that they approached the agency’s human resources department shortly after the conference to express concern about what Ms Wallace’s words meant for their careers.
They were sacked days later, according to the industry magazine Campaign. They have taken legal advice and are understood to be preparing a claim for discrimination on the basis of gender, race, nationality and sexuality. At least three ex-JWT employees are part of the group, The Times understands.
Last night JWT insisted that their redundancies had been handled without any discrimination. Legal experts said that the claims would probably become a test case if they did proceed to an employment tribunal.
The advertising industry has a long-standing reputation for sexism and chauvinism, as featured in the television series Mad Men set in 1960s New York, but is now under intense pressure to clean up its act.
The global #MeToo movement has highlighted the unacceptability of office behaviour that may once have been tolerated. Recent research found that 34 per cent of women working in UK advertising and marketing communications had experienced sexual harassment.
Ms Wallace has previously written: “A hell of a lot of people are literally sleeping on the job when it comes to diversifying their creative department beyond white, pale, stale males.” [Ms Wallace admits to being racist, ageist, and sexist. And people are “literally” sleeping on the job? The woman’s a blithering idiot, even by feminist standards.]
Asked about the case, a JWT spokeswoman said: “It’s not appropriate for us to comment on individuals in an ongoing process. Any redundancies at J Walter Thompson London are handled fairly, lawfully and without any form of discrimination.”
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