The World’s Most Powerful Women: August 4

August 4, 2016, 6:29 AM UTC

In a swift turn of events, the executive chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi resigned yesterday after taking heat for saying women lack “vertical ambition.” Kevin Roberts, a longtime Saatchi exec, stepped down after being placed on leave late last week for also suggesting the ad industry’s debate on gender diversity was over.

To his credit, Roberts issued a statement saying he was sorry, adding that he’d “failed exceptionally fast” in his remarks. “‘Fail fast, fix fast, learn fast’ is a leadership maxim I advocate,” he said.

But his comments, made in an interview with Business Insider late last week, drew criticism from DDB Worldwide top exec Wendy Clark, who tweeted, “Twenty-five years ago, I was an ad agency receptionist. Today, I’m the CEO. I’m much happier in the C-Suite, thanks all the same.” Likewise, Advertising Women of New York President Lynn Branigan called Roberts’ comments “alarming.”

As a fan of the critically-acclaimed TV series Mad Men, I always thought it depicted a bygone era in which women in ad agencies had no choice but to start as secretaries. If you were lucky enough to get discovered—by making a smart comment that could be a line for a lipstick ad—you just might get the chance to write copy, if the male bosses let you.

Then again, the progress of women in the workplace is not linear, and neither is our ambition. As I’ve mentioned, Fortune‘s Claire Zillman noted that Saatchi’s Roberts failed to say women’s ambition is often peripheral—or “horizontal”—which allows us to seek opportunities that come along, as opposed to focusing on climbing up a corporate ladder. Powerful women such as Oprah Winfrey and Sheryl Sandberg have embraced the concept. Here’s to hoping the Saatchi episode encourages other execs to do the same.


J.K. Rowling's enduring magic
I've given J.K. Rowling a lot of space in WMPW this week, but this bit of news can't be ignored. Little, Brown reports that in a span of three days it's sold 680,000 print copies of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the script to the London stage production, in the U.K. That makes it the fastest-selling book in 10 years. In the U.S., Scholastic said it sold over 2 million copies of the book in its first two days, an unprecedented rate for a script book.
The Bookseller


Saudi steps forward
In a first, and just in time for the Olympics, Saudi Arabia has created a division for women in sports, with Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud at the helm. Saudi is sending four women to the Olympics this year—double the number it sent to the London games four years ago. They are: runners Sarah Attar and Cariman Abu al-Jadail, plus judo athlete Wujud Fahmi and fencer Lubna al-Omair.


Where Apple wins
Apple has made small improvements in its gender and ethnic diversity overall, though there seems to have been no improvement at the top of the company. In its annual diversity report, the company also said that women and underrepresented minorities were now being paid as much as white men in similar positions. Apple joins Amazon, PayPal and Microsoft, who all announced earlier this year that they pay employees equally for equal work.


Enhancing an image
Three ad agency interns at BBH are working on a way to increase the number of women that pop up when you search "CEO" on Google Images.


A water polo star
Ashleigh Johnson, an American water polo player heading for Olympic competition for the first time, has so much speed and precision in the pool, she could elevate the profile of the game. Johnson has been swimming since the age of 9 but didn't get to watch high-level water polo until four years ago because it was difficult to find games online.


Supporting startups
Black and Latina startup founders traditionally have had a hard time raising funding for their companies. Kathryn Finney, the founder of organization digitalundivided, is out to change that by providing women with training and career assistance.


Another jump in Japan
It's been an unusually good week for women in Japan. First, the country elected Yuriko Koike as its first female governor of Tokyo, even though she lacked the backing of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. And now, Abe has appointed lawyer Tomomi Inada—whom he likens to Joan of Arc—as Japan's new defense minister.
Financial Times


Trump narrows political fundraising gap with Clinton
New York Times

How Trump's nomination makes things tougher for Republican women in DC
Washington Post

Female small business owners are more upbeat about the U.S. growth outlook than male owners are
Business Wire

Iran postpones civil service exam because of sexual discrimination concerns

How Scottish wrestler Nicola Glencross got a rep for being the "best in the galaxy"

Why comic Ali Wong feels motherhood is a source of power


We never will give up our hope that there will be a moment of silence at the opening ceremony.
— Ankie Spitzer, the widow of Andre Spitzer, the fencing master and coach who was one of the 11 Israelis killed at the Munich Olympics in 1972