A group of “white, male, straight, British” creatives from JWT London are accusing the WPP-owned agency of discrimination after being made redundant in May.
According to reports, the unidentified party of males lost their jobs days after the agency’s creative director Jo Wallace (main photo) told an industry conference she wanted to “obliterate” its reputation as a “Knightsbridge boys’ club”.
Knightsbridge is one of London’s wealthiest suburbs and is famous for being elitist and home to a various old-school institutions and political establishments.
Wallace reportedly opened her conference presentation by telling the audience that she was openly gay before revealing JWT’s initiatives to address gender pay disparity at the agency. “I love a challenge,” Wallace said before adding the pay gap was a “rocket in the arse” in the industry needed.
Following Wallace’s presentation, the group of men went to JWT’s HR department to express their reservations about her comments only to be made redundant a few days later.
It is understood the men have now engaged lawyers about bringing a discrimination case on grounds of gender, race, nationality and sexuality.
It will be an interesting test case too, as a number of British agencies have worked hard in recent times to elevate women to senior leadership roles.
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 a UK industry average of 16.2 per cent.
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.”
In December, Wallace penned an opinion piece that read “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 (black, Asian and minority ethnic) creatives.”