Very Mad Men! JWT Facing Claims Of Discrimination Against “White, Straight, Males”

Very Mad Men! JWT Facing Claims Of Discrimination Against “White, Straight, Males”

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.”

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  • Anne Miles 1 year ago

    If what the reports say is true this is a classic ‘unconscious bias over-steer’ which I’ve been talking about for some time. Whilst I fight for gender equality too, I equally fight for moderation and to stop the man-bashing too. Let’s be more egalitarian.

    What opportunity did these men get to listen to any performance issues and learn what they need to? Did they have an opportunity to redefine roles? Just firing people like that is so old-school (out of date thinking and not a people thing). I know so many older people in adland being pushed out for all the wrong reasons and without a chance.

    JWT Sydney got rid of 5 really great senior people earlier this year. Imagine if we said ‘We can’t afford to keep black people’?! When you swap out the language you know you are being discriminatory. Well, I shouldn’t complain – the more experienced talent out there the better for me I think, but it is WRONG.

    The agency model is the cause of this and those of you that know me, know I do the metrics on this. There are other options for agencies and they don’t need to be so stuck on old models of operation and billing. Age does not prevent you from being creative, learning something new, or being tech savvy. Get over yourselves adland, please. You are doing the brands who trust you a disservice more than anyone.

    Kudos to those agencies that are taking a stance and learning what they need to in order to fix these issues for the industry. Surely there has to be an empowered and positive way for the industry to deal with this without it being a legal and expensive drama that solves it?1 Every individual needs to know their own bias, how it presents daily (especially in the work that goes out to the world) …and what to do about it. Telling people what NOT to do is so unhelpful as they don’t know what TO do.

    Please adland. DO something. I don’t see anyone other than a few of us being proactive about this…. please stand up by example. Not just in the HR world but in the work you produce.

Jo Wallace JWT WPP

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