When it comes to the whirlwind surrounding New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson’s abrupt firing, it seems to some that the answer is “yes.” Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has come out defending his position and vehemently denying claims of sexism. He stated her termination had nothing to do with her gender but was instead based on her management style. This may well be true. Maybe, as he has stated, he gave her ample warning and plenty of time to improve the management style issues that were troubling him. I’m not in any position to judge this, and I won’t try. But one aspect of the media frenzy surrounding Abramson’s termination that I find worthy of comment is the notion that she was, well, a bitch.
Forgive my language, but isn’t that the sense we get? I’ve heard Abramson called “pushy” and “mean.” I can’t help wonder why those terms seem only to be applied to female leaders. When’s the last time you heard a male leader called “pushy”? It’s not that there aren’t any; that’s a given, right? But it seems that society accepts (and maybe even expects) these traits in male leaders, while women are still expected to be warm and fuzzy. I’m not saying this is the case. I’m saying it’s interesting food for thought, and the Abramson situation provides an opportunity to consider the issue.