Gender Clash in Jill Abramson's Ouster from the New York Times


The opinion article on which this commentary is based deals with the recent firing of Jill Abramson as executive editor from the New York Times.


A high profile case of gender clash played out before the nation with the ouster of a woman executive director, abruptly fired, and replaced by a male, that took place in the media industry.

Only months earlier in February, the annual study made by the Women's Media Center revealed the stark reality that there still exists a lack of gender diversity in media: women are still drastically under-respresented in the news industry, the Huffington Post reported.

The findings, it was said, were gathered from from a compilation of other studies like the 2013 American Society of News Editors Newsroom Census, and led Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, to declare, “The media is failing women across the board."

This week's news of Jill Abramson's ouster from the New York Times as executive editor has again brought to the fore gender issues that include Abramson's reported complaint about the gap between her salary and that of her predecessor, as well as the behind-the-scenes clashes between her and NYT's publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. (Jack Mirkinson of the Huffington Post)

What riles many observers, especially women, was the manner in which she was fired:
"This is incredibly un-Timesian," a Times staffer told New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman. “It's an undignified, unceremonious way to handle this. There's many people who feel that.” (HuffingtonPost)
Rebecca Traister in The New Republic: “Abramson’s firing was among the most harsh and humiliating I’ve ever seen play out in the media’s recent history.” (ThinkProgress)

Jessica Goldstein of Think Progress strongly and aptly describes the whole saga: In place of a voice from the Times were the voices of what felt like every woman everywhere; not just women in media, but every woman who has ever worked. Abramson’s dismissal was shocking, but the story emerging behind it was anything but. A woman shoved off the edge of a glass cliff after less than three years on the job. Another one bites the dust.

Throughout her tenure, Abramson suffered from perceptions among staff that she was condescending and combative, Politico reported (Dylan Byers).

Perceptions, or being perceived to be – these mostly form biases, rightly or wrongly.

Indeed, it seems like this is another 'battle of the sexes' drawn in the arena of the newsroom, one woman against three males at least: Jill Abramson against publisher Sulzberger, Jr., Times CEO Mark Thompson, and Dean Baquet, the managing editor, who is replacing her. The classic gender clash, and the woman defeated.

And as if to rub salt into the wound, Dean Baquet's acceptance speech took a jab at Abramson's leadership style: “I will listen hard, I will be hands on, I will be engaged. I’ll walk the room,” he said. “That’s the only way I know how to edit.” He also added that John Carroll, whom he worked for at The Los Angeles Times, “told me that great editors can also be humane editors.” (NYT)

It is just natural to have differing management styles according to personality, work goals and parameters in which to exercise one's authority, among others. Granted that she might have overstepped boundaries, but the abruptness of the action is somehow a disrespect for her gender because she is a woman. Her contributions were overlooked on the basis of some personality clashes.

This example undermines efforts in promoting diversity in the workplace, more so at the high corporate level.

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