Chairman of advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi Kevin Roberts has been put on leave for saying the debate on gender bias in the advertising industry is “all over”.

However, women “do want the top jobs” in leading advertising firms, a senior female executive at Saatchi and Saatchi says.

Kate Stanners, global chief creative officer, said despite this, the lack of female leaders was an “industry-wide problem” and women needed greater encouragement and more role models.

In an interview with Business Insider, published on Friday, Roberts said Saatchi and Saatchi had a number of talented women who “reach a certain point in their careers” and that in two out of three occasions rejected the chance to become creative directors.

She said women “don’t bail out, and do want the top jobs”.

The most important thing was “encouraging women to be more vocal and more high-profile, so younger women and women coming through the ranks can see it is possible and there is no reason why they can’t take those jobs”, she added.

She said there were problems across the advertising industry with women attaining senior positions – but the situation was getting better only because leading women were acting as role models.

Ms Stanners stressed that more needed to be done, adding: “A lot of things you need to do to encourage women into those roles, maybe, are more proactive – things around childcare…

“I think people have to work to make it an environment that encourages women.”

Mr Roberts was placed on a period of leave by parent group Publicis, which said promoting gender equality “starts at the top” and it would not tolerate anyone “who does not value the importance of inclusion”.

Statistics compiled by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and published in January suggested women held around 32 percent of senior management positions at Saatchi and Saatchi.

It also found that in the advertising industry as a whole, an average of 30.5 percent of senior executives were female.