Group of advertising executives claim they lost their jobs because they are 'white, male, straight and British' after director announced plans to 'obliterate' the Mad Men culture
Jo Wallace, pictured, wanted to change the culture of advertising agency J Walter Thompson
A group of “white, male, straight, British” executives have claimed they were victims of discrimination after being made redundant by one of London’s top advertising agencies.
They reportedly lost their jobs at J Walter Thompson (JWT) agency in the summer following a speech by creative director Jo Wallace saying she wanted to “obliterate” its reputation as a “Knightsbridge boys’ club”.
Shortly after the conference in May the men went to JWT’s HR department to express concerns about the implications for their career prospects, according to the advertising industry magazine Campaign.
The executives are understood to have engaged lawyers about bringing a possible discrimination case on grounds of gender, race, nationality and sexuality.
If a legal case goes ahead it is likely to be seen as a major test case at a time when many employers are trying to boost female representation at senior levels to close the gender gap.
Earlier this year JWT was exposed for having the widest gender pay gap in the sector with a mean of 38.3 per cent and a median of 44.7 per cent, compared with an industry average of 16.2 per cent. Ms Wallace, who was appointed in October last year, has been one of the most high-profile champions of diversity in the notoriously male dominated advertising industry.
At the Creative Equals conference she introduced herself as a gay woman and promised to “obliterate” JWT’s Mad Men reputation as an agency full of white, privileged straight men creating traditional advertising, adding: “I love a challenge.”
She also said the gender pay gap was a “rocket in the arse” needed to address the lack of diversity among senior staff.
In an article last December Ms Wallace also wrote that “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”.
“Despite so much talk and agreement on the importance of diversity for the creative industry there are still far too many creative departments with zero female or BAME creatives.”
Ms Wallace is the founder of a series of networking events, Good Girls Eat Dinner, described as providing “inspirational, kick ass female role models across the creative industries (where they are sadly lacking)”.
Since the publication of the pay gap figures JWT has introduced a major employment plan to boost diversity including “unconscious bias training” for all staff and a “blind recruitment” policy that remove details such as gender from job applications.
A spokeswoman for JWT 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.”