• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    SImsdeluxe on Serial: Yes, innocent people i…
    riverdaughter on My favorite Christmas movie…
    Sweet Sue on My favorite Christmas movie…
    blueberry on Serial: Yes, innocent people i…
    Monster from the Id on Serial: Yes, innocent people i…
    Monster from the Id on Serial: Yes, innocent people i…
    katiebird on Serial: Yes, innocent people i…
    r u reddy on The Neuroscience of Creat…
    riverdaughter on The Neuroscience of Creat…
    Mr Mike on The Neuroscience of Creat…
    katiebird on The Neuroscience of Creat…
    riverdaughter on The Neuroscience of Creat…
    Sweet Sue on The Neuroscience of Creat…
    riverdaughter on The Neuroscience of Creat…
    Bob Harrison on The Neuroscience of Creat…
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama big pharma Bill Clinton Chris Christie cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean Joe Biden John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Keith Olbermann Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare occupy wall street OccupyWallStreet Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Texas Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    December 2014
    S M T W T F S
    « Nov    
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    28293031  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Dogs used to rape prisoners at Bagram?
      I don’t know.  But Pinochet did the same (plus rats), it’s not without precedent. I hope not: The war veteran, who loathed manipulating Western politicians even as he defended tactics of collective punishment, continued his account: Afghan prisoners were tied face down on small chairs, Jack said. Then fighting dogs entered the torture chamber. “If [...] […]
  • Top Posts

Pondering Abramson’s firing- again (for the last time)

Update: Here’s a podcast from the Women’s Media Center on the subject of Jill Abramson’s firing featuring Carol Jenkins, Geneva Overholser, Gloria Steinem, and Soraya Chemaly.  They talk about some of the material I posted below.  As to how we tackle the problem of subtle but real discrimination, we need to take a lesson from Finland and open up a Gender Glasses office in the EEOC that will quantify absolutely everything in a suspect workplace.  Everything must be measured from the placement of desks to the time it takes for email to be answered to who reports to who to how many minutes women are allowed to present and how many times they are interrupted compared to a man.  Think of it like following sports.  Men respect statistics and, frankly, I think it is the only way this problem is going to get flushed out into the open.   Otherwise, it’s just our word against theirs.  If feminists are really serious about the issue, they need to lobby legislators to formally create a Gender Glasses type of bureau, fund it and publish the statistics.  You will know who your friends are when they are asked to co-sign the legislation and move it through the committees.

*******************************************************************************************************

I promise this will be the last time I write about this thing because it’s speculation anyway.  But there’s a lot going on here and, in the end, this is primarily a story about how gender stereotypes were used to serve Baquet.  I realize that he’s a likable guy but in the end, Baquet was the primary beneficiary of Abramson’s firing.  I think we have to acknowledge that he had a significant role in it.

The story is complicated by a family dynasty, recent history, embarrassment, loyalty, economics and a fundamental misunderstanding about how modern women (and some modern men) think.  So, this post will be in pieces parts with the hope that it will all make sense in the end.  Some of these pieces come from personal experience that I have witnessed or was encouraged to participate in.  The pharma field has given me a wealth of material to write several satires.

Let’s start with the most obvious factor plucked from another post I read this morning about positions traditionally held by men being replaced by female appointees and the irrational resentment that engenders.

“There aren’t any WOMEN here today, are there?”

1.) The male affirmative action program.  I ran into this one early in my career when the lab I worked for hired a woman to run a medicinal chemistry group.  As far as I could see, she was the only woman running a group of that size in the company.  There were other female chemists who had a few assistants and were running project teams but this one new hire, let’s call her D, was going to have a substantial group of PhD chemists running their own projects working for her.  It was unprecedented.  On the projects I worked on with D, I found her to be very intelligent, incisive, authoritative and, this one is important, calm.  There was no drama.  She was, and still is, a natural leader.

Needless to say, to this day, the chemists at that lab (who were all laid off en masse by Pfizer in 2009, but that’s another story) complained bitterly about why D was hired.  It wasn’t just that she was a token, it was that there were so many other more qualified men that could have been hired in her stead.  I had lunch with a bunch of these guys a couple of years ago.  They are all pretty decent people, even if they are mentally disabled by their Y chromosomes.  When the subject of D was brought up, I laughed at them. They were still convinced that there were better qualified men that could have been hired.  I pointed out that before D started, all of the group leaders were men and several, and I named names, were leaders that no one could stand.  They were irrational or untalented or autocratic or weird.  No one wanted to work for them.  But D comes along and instead of saying, hey, she makes JB look like a fricking nut case, why don’t we replace HIM, we’re getting all upset that she’s not some dude we know.  I gave them case after case of lousy male group leaders and they all agreed that no one wanted to work for them.  Working for D, on the other hand, was a pleasure because it was so damned rational.  So, what was the problem, guys?  Why is the answer always the affirmative action plan for men?  That shut them up and gave them something to think about for awhile.

Sometimes, you need to point out what a warped perspective men have about how the world works.  In some respects, their lives are as disadvantaged as a person who grew up in the ghetto.  It’s all they know.  They’re so used to lousy leadership from half of the men they work for that they fail to see what the real problem is when a woman steps in to a leadership position.

This has been brought up before but the news media represents women’s points of view very poorly.  The ratio of men to women on the Op/Ed pages of the NYTimes is something like 10-2.  Just look at the Supreme Court to see how having even 3 out of 9 people judging while female has had damn little impact on the law of the land.  It only takes one Justice Kennedy or Anonin Scalia in love with his own self and sense of power to hold back modernity in this country.  But for some reason, all I ever read about is consternation over why Ruth Bader Ginsburg is still serving, a question that never came up when John Paul Stevens was serving well into his 90th year.  So, it’s no wonder that our perceptions of women in leadership roles are so twisted.  It’s like the privileged group just now noticed that there are women in the crowd.

2.) The layoffs are coming!  The layoffs are coming!  Anyone working in the last 30 years knows what it’s like to be on the verge of a layoff.  The MBA crowd starts sending out fatwas about money and getting lunch served during 4 hour meetings is suddenly not happening anymore and cuts start really biting into how things are done.  When this starts happening to a group of professionals who are heavily mortgaged and have kids to raise and college to pay for, alliances start to get formed very quickly.  It becomes necessary to find the politically well connected and become their best friend.  You like what they like and hate who they hate.

When the layoff rumors started at my last lab about 2 years before the ax fell, I had a conversation with one of my colleagues who told me a story about his family dynamics.  He said that he had two brothers and in order to get what he wanted, he always sided with the stronger brother at the time.  The brother on top would periodically change and he switched his loyalties accordingly.  This conversation was in reference to why he was siding with the guy who eventually turned out to be our boss just before the layoff decisions were made and not with the woman who was my boss.  He was offering me a choice.  Switch and help drive the knife in or suffer the consequences.  I opted for  loyalty.  I liked my boss and was learning a lot from her.  She was displaced a few months later and got a new job, and almost all of her former group members were laid off pretty quickly.  I jumped to another group and hung on.

I bring this up because I’ve heard a lot of stuff about how even some of the women in the newsroom complained about Abramson.  This is at a time when the CEO of the Times had been making his presence more widely known.  When it comes time to satisfy the shareholders, it’s important that you have made the correct alliance.  It is pretty clear from the posts I have read about Baquet that Sulzberger liked him and had regretted not appointing him instead of Abramson.  So, if the Times staff was in the unenviable position of picking a brother to side with in order to save jobs, Baquet was the one to go to.  In such a situation, it is appropriate and understandable to play up his good characteristics in order to justify why Abramson was stabbed in the back.  It happens all of the time.  I didn’t say it was nice, or fair, or loyal.  It’s just human.  It’s not a reflection on either Baquet’s or Abramson’s leadership qualities.  Pinch liked Baquet and didn’t like Abramson and that’s all you needed to know in order to save your own skin.

3.) Ovaries of Steel.  In this case, I am not referring to Abramson, although that plays into it as well.  No, I’m referring to the person who Abramson was trying to bring in, Janine Gibson, newly appointed editor-in-chief of The Guardian.  Frontline recently ran a two part series on the NSA scandal that everyone should watch for a wide variety of reasons.  What Janine Gibson did was both shrewd and incredibly ballsy and she learned what NOT to do by watching what the Times did with previous national intelligence stories.

So, here’s a quick summary.  In 2004, James Risen of the NYTimes wrote a story about the Bush administration’s possible violations of the constitution through a massive surveillance of American citizens.  It turns out that Risen only knew a tiny fraction of what was going on and Edward Snowden would spell it all out 9 years later.  Risen presented Bill Keller, executive editor at the time with his story and Keller and Sulzberger contacted the White House.  The White House, deep in reelection politics, knew it had a problem on its hands so it invited Keller and Sulzberger to a meeting. It then put pressure on the Times to sit on the story for a year.  The Frontline documentary makes it sound like the White House either threatened the Times or laid a guilt trip on it about “letting the terrorists win”.  Well, you remember the crap that the Bushies were always dumping on its critics.  Same thing.

Fast forward to 2013.  Janine Gibson sends her representatives to Hong Kong to vet Edward Snowden.  They check him out and say he’s legit and the story is huge.  At that point, she also calls the White House- and gives them four hours to respond before she goes to print. She refuses a meeting. Gibson knew that if she met with the White House and they stalled for time or found a way to silence her source, the story would vanish into the ether so she gave them very little time to engage in defensive tactics.  Now, I think Edward Snowden is a hero and Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras were inspiring but when it comes right down to it, none of revelations might have happened if Janine Gibson hadn’t had the courage and intelligence to pre-empt the White House and NSA’s stalling tactics.

4.) Putting it all together.  So, here’s my best guess as to how Abramson’s firing went down.  First, we have Baquet indulging in male affirmative action behavior.  Why shouldn’t he be executive editor?  Also, Abramson’s bringing in this Gibson girl to be his equal?  What?

(I’m going to guess this is when Abramson discovered that she had been underpaid at certain points during her career at the NYTimes.  She probably had to find out what salary, benefits and level she could offer Gibson and in the process, uncovered a pattern of pay discrimination that dated back to the time when she was a deputy managing editor.  Just a guess but the timing seems right.)

Then there is the sense of unease and impending cutbacks.  Baquet makes a lot of friends.  Sulzberger likes him.  Alliances are formed around Baquet.

Then there is the possible embarrassment to the Times if Gibson comes in.  First, it highlights Keller’s and Sulzberger’s toadying to the White House and, secondly, Janine Gibson looks like a loose cannon, something Baquet was likely to highlight during the amuse-bouche.  Abramson is making a rash decision to bring in someone who may get the NYTimes into another Risen situation with all of the potential legal headaches and expenses that would entail.  Did Pinch really want another embarrassing situation on his hands??  Come to think of it, it’s kind of flattering to be on the president’s good side, isn’t it?  And besides, Pinch was one of the forces behind trying to get Caroline Kennedy to take Hillary Clinton’s senate seat.  No doubt, Sulzberger considers himself to be one of the best people.  It just wouldn’t look good to hire this upstart boat rocker.  Did Abramson really think this over before she went over both of their heads to hire Gibson?

5.) The Pilhofer Pilfer.  Women who came of age during the 70’s and 80’s, before The Backlash, grew up believing that there were no boundaries to their ambition.  Oh, sure, we had professors who spent inordinate amounts of time fluffing some pissy little male students instead of us but we could rise above that.  Then we went to work and accomplished and moved into leadership positions and took some risks.  To us, I mean to the females in this cohort, there is a lot of admiration and respect for each other’s talents and life work.  We see ourselves as persons who are women with accomplishments.  However, to the rest of the world, especially to men who for some reason aren’t interested in hearing about the Abramson firing because it is booooorrrrrring to them, a person with Hillary Clinton’s or Jill Abramson’s credentials is still like a dog playing a piano.  They are one offs.

I have also read that women get their first crack at high level leadership when an organization is in trouble.  There are a couple theories as to why this is.  One is that the organizations have run out of other options.  Another is that women are seen as smoothing the waters when there is internal turmoil, although this is really a cultural stereotype.  Women are human beings and can be tough as well if they are given permission to do so.  Look at what happened in Iceland during the financial crisis of 2008.  Johanna Sigurdardottir was put in charge when the country faced down the IMF and the world’s biggest banks.  It initially had a severe recession but has recovered better than Ireland, Spain or Greece.  The risk to women is high in these situations.  If she can’t avert the impending disaster, her leadership is blamed and taints the careers of other women of her stature.

Abramson was put in a tricky position when she took over from Keller in 2011.  The Times is going through a harsh transition due to the changing nature of the media.  From all accounts, she was doing very well.  She was instrumental in putting up the paywall to the news, which makes a hell of a lot more sense than putting a paywall around the Op/Ed pages.  Maybe it wouldn’t have been enough to save her when the shareholders started demanding more for dinner.  Even superhuman accomplishments wouldn’t have been sufficient in that scenario.  And her reputedly “brusque” behavior was not unusual for executive editors of major papers.  I think the gender related complaints were just convenient excuses that Baquet and his allies used to get her out of the way.

But Sulzberger and Baquet are still working with old male brains because Janine Gibson *is* a force to be reckoned with and the fact that she poached one of the NYTimes’ up and coming digital content specialists in the aftermath of Abramson’s firing tells us quite a bit.  It tells us that there are some men who see an advantage to working for strong, courageous women, and that’s a very good thing for the rest of us.

And a very bad thing for the NYTimes.

 

 

Who zoomed who during the Abramson debacle?

bonehead-award-graphicThe fallout from the Abramson debacle continues at the NYTimes.  It sounds to me like Dean Baquet used his Y chromosome to pull a fast one using Sulzberger’s sympathy as a fellow guy.  First, he complained to Pinch or Punch (or whatever) that Jill Abramson hired Janine Gibson at The Guardian as his equal at the NYT in charge of digital content.  Gibson says Abramson told her that she had to get Baquet to buy in to the hire before there was a formal offer and, indeed, there was no formal offer to Gibson regarding the position.  From the New Yorker piece on Abramson’s firing we learn:

Janine Gibson, speaking publicly for the first time about her meetings with Baquet, clouded the case against Abramson somewhat, at least where the accusation of lying is concerned. “I can’t speak to Dean’s understanding, but it was made clear to me that everybody knew everything about what was being discussed,” she told me. “Jill was explicit in our initial conversation when she told me, ‘The first thing I have to do is talk to Dean.’ I’m mortified that these discussions are in public and feel very strongly that Jill should not have been hung out to dry when she behaved honorably and was trying to do what she thought was best for the New York Times.” Gibson has told friends that, not only did she meet with Baquet for lunch on Monday May 5th, she met that morning with him and Abramson together for more than an hour. She had a separate meeting with Sulzberger and Thompson.

That didn’t stop Baquet from whining that that Abramson hadn’t gotten his sign off, as if it were needed (apparently, in spite of Abramson’s title as executive editor, she needed it. We can only speculate as to why this condition exists.).  Baquet says no one told him anything.

But it gets better.  I found this on Jay Rosen’s twitter stream this morning.  It’s a bit from The Guardian:

Guardian News & Media (GNM) today announced the appointment of Aron Pilhofer – currently associate managing editor for digital strategy at the New York Times – to the newly-created role of executive editor of Digital. The announcement was made by incoming editor-in-chief of theguardian.com, Janine Gibson.

Pilhofer, who is also editor of interactive news at the New York Times, will work across the Guardian’s editorial teams to develop and execute new and innovative digital journalism initiatives and tools to help grow global audiences and deepen reader engagement. His new role will see him helping drive the Guardian’s digital transformation, working in concert with a global team of journalists and developers.

He will start in the Guardian’s US newsroom in June and will move to the Guardian’s offices in London over the summer.

So, to recap:

1.) Janine Gibson, editor of digital content (and now incoming editor in chief) at The Guardian interviews with Baquet and Abramson for a position at the NYT as deputy managing editor of digital content.  This position is co-equal to Baquet’s. Digital is the “wave of the future” so it’s important to get someone with experience in this area to do it.  Gibson seems very qualified.

2.)Abramson gives an informal offer to Gibson with the proviso that Baquet signs on. Presumably, the co-equal level is going to rattle Baquet.  In the meantime, she assures Baquet that she will recommend him as her successor to Pinch or Punch (or whatever) when the time comes.  She sets up a dinner for Baquet to talk with Pinch or Punch (or whatever) so his fee-fees can be assuaged.

3.) Baquet stabs Abramson in the back and pulls the gender stereotyped “she is being an autocratic bitch” thing with Pinch or Punch (or whatever).  Sulzberger, having heard about Abramson from myriad male sources before, no doubt, finally gives in and fires her, to appoint Baquet to Abramson’s position.

4.) Gibson poaches Pilhofer from the NYTimes.  Lovely.

Now, we can look at the Pilhofer pilfer in two ways.  The first is that Pilhofer was pretty pissed off that Abramson wouldn’t hire from within and make him managing editor of digital content so he left.  But he leaves to work for Gibson, which looks to me like a lateral move, not necessarily a promotion.  And the people I’ve known who make such moves are the ones who have absolutely had it.  They have a choice and they aren’t going to take it anymore.  Pilhofer would have worked for Gibson if she had gone to the NYT so presumably, Gibson was not the problem.

The second way to look at this is that the NYTimes has lost two stellar digital content specialists in the span of a couple of weeks.  This is at a time when it couldn’t afford to lose digital content specialists.  AND it has fired the editor who was trying to bring in the very person who filched one of their rising stars.  Note that putting Baquet in charge did not stop Pilhofer from leaving, in spite of the now more genial, unfailingly politer news room.

This looks like a boneheaded move but not in any way an unusual one.  The corporate world is littered with the corpses of women’s careers and good ideas and things that could have been but didn’t come to fruition because some dude’s fragile ego and sense of entitlement was threatened.  This is why we can’t have nice things.  So, the NYT has a new executive editor and has lost a good chunk of the very talent it needs to grow in the future.

Way to go, Pinch, or Punch (or whatever).

 

 

“She’s doing it the way she wants to do it”: Abramson vs Mad Men

Peggy Olson questions herself

Woot!  Talk about timely.  Matt Weiner batted one out of the park last night with Mad Men.  He encapsulated in one episode what many woman go through in the working world every day.  Quick summary: Peggy Olson is the creative for an ad for Burger Chef.  Through a series of unfortunate events, Don, her former boss, now works for her.  Pete, the sales guy, says that when it comes time to give the presentation to the client, he thinks Don should give the presentation, not Peggy.  That’s because Don is the voice of authority, Peggy brings the emotion.  She’s the woman and therefore the Mom voice.

Fans who have followed this show since the beginning must have snorted their G&T through their noses at that statement.  Peggy deliberately rejected motherhood because she “wanted other things”.  But it’s not the motherhood/emotional part of Pete’s stupid assessment that’s important.  It’s that Peggy is NOT the voice of authority, even though she’s capable, bright and in charge of the strategy.

This is what Jill Abramson and other powerful women have been facing.  No matter what their title says, they are ultimately not the voices of authority.  Some dude is.  In Abramson’s case, it was her publisher.  Sulzberger has recently come out saying that it wasn’t gender that forced Abramson out but her management style.  Well, of course!  She was probably just crazy enough to believe that when it came to management decisions, she would get the final say because she was the executive editor.  Instead, I’m guessing that every decision she made was questioned.  If everything was going well, it was because she had talented people working for her.  If a decision went wrong, it was a zillion times worse because she was the agent who made it happen.

Hey, Pinch or Punch, or whatever your silly nickname is, we have seen this play before.  Her authority is only relevant when it turns out wrong.  If everything is going right, she doesn’t get any credit at all.  How many times have I been to presentations where a guy talks and he’s given praise and helpful suggestions.  He even gets to finish.  But when a woman gets up to talk, it’s perfectly Ok to talk over her, force her to explicitly detail every decision and calculation, and then point out the flaws bit by bit until the end can’t come too quickly, if she’s allowed to finish at all.  I’ve even seen male underlings do the dirty work of tearing into a female rival’s work with the ferocity of a Rottweiler while the rest of us sat in stunned silence.  It’s rude, vicious and serves to strip a woman of all authority.  She can’t help but question herself.  What crime did she commit to merit such a public dressing down?  There’s no reason for it except competition.  And they do it because it works.

So, yeah, it’s very simple to make every management failure to look like the biggest mistake in the world if you train enough eyes on it, don’t hold back on the disrespectful criticism and don’t stop the nasty criticism once it starts.  Men are allowed to make mistake after mistake.  Their mistakes don’t count unless the company or top brass is embarrassed, like Howell Raines embarrassed the NYTimes by hiring and promoting Jayson Blair.  But a woman is NEVER allowed to make mistakes because her authority is already so shaky that anything that goes wrong doesn’t look like a learning experience but a catastrophic failure.   That’s a perfect way to inhibit creativity.  Just drop a house on someone the minute they take a risk and get it wrong.

But back to Peggy and Don.  Don was her mentor.  Yes, yes, this is fiction.  But in last night’s episode, he turns up at her office and gives her, not the answer to ad, but something far more important.  He helped her believe in herself and her instincts again.  He gave her the support she needed.  In the last scene, she has the confidence to go on and do it her way.

Now, it’s just a TV show, fergawdssakes, but come on, guys, we’re fricking half the population and it’s the twenty first century already.  Mentor your female colleagues and when the challenges to her authority start flying (and they will), stand up for them.  Is that so much to ask?  Otherwise, you might end up with this guy:

Obama Arrives In New York

 

Instead of this woman (who everyone now seems to want desperately):

 

Yeah, that went well.

*********************************************************

Speaking of Hillary, now that Tim Geithner is out with his book featuring himself as the savior of the global financial system while the rest of us, you know, suffer in the name of shareholder value, let’s look back to the time when one of the presidential candidates proposed saving the homeowners (as authors Atif Mian and Amir Sufi assert was a missed opportunity):

 

So there you have it, folks.  We saved the banks but doomed the economy and many unemployed peoples’ careers due to what may turn out to be an insufficient number of Penis Years.

Now, I realize that there are going to be some bloggers on the left that will roll their eyes and laugh and insist that it was a lot more complicated than that.   I will not deny that many of them were victims of a stellar campaign that convinced them to vote against their own best interests and that campaign should be a textbook case of a social psychology experiment in situational influence that we should all study.  But when it comes right down to it, penis years had a lot to do with it.  We are condemned to suffer by a bunch of dicks.

 

Told’ja

So, the truth comes out about what it’s like to work as a woman in the White House. In Ron Susskind’s new upcoming book, Confidence Men, Women in Obama’s White House felt excluded and ignored:

A new book claims that the Obama White House is a boys’ club marred by rampant infighting that has hindered the administration’s economic policy and left top female advisers feeling excluded from key conversations.

“Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President,” by journalist Ron Suskind due out next Tuesday, details the rivalries among Obama’s top economic advisers, Larry Summers, former chairman of the National Economic Council, and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. It describes constant second-guessing by Summers, now at Harvard, who was seen by others as “imperious and heavy-handed” in his decision-making.

In an excerpt obtained by The Post, a female senior aide to President Obama called the White House a hostile environment for women.“This place would be in court for a hostile workplace,” former White House communications director Anita Dunn is quoted as saying. “Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.

[…]

It says that women occupied many of the West Wing’s senior positions, but felt outgunned and outmaneuvered by male colleagues such as former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Summers.

“I felt like a piece of meat,” Christina Romer, former head of the Council of Economic Advisers, said of one meeting in which Suskind writes she was “boxed out” by Summers.

Dunn told Suskind that the problems began during the 2008 campaign. At one point she was viewing a television ad with other campaign officials and was shocked to see no women in the spot.

“There isn’t a single woman in this ad,” Dunn said. “I was dumbfounded. It wasn’t like they were being deliberately sexist. It’s just there was no one offering a female perspective.”

The ad was later reshot, with women included.

“The president has a real woman problem,” an unnamed high-ranking female official told Suskind. “ The idea of the boys’ club being just Larry and Rahm isn’t really fair. He [Obama] was just as responsible himself.”

Based on interviews with more than 200 people inside and outside the White House, Suskind’s book comes as Obama faces the lowest poll numbers of his tenure, and deep discontent over his economic policies.

According to the book, female staffers, like Dunn and Romer, felt sidelined. In November 2009, female aides complained to the president about being left out of meetings, or ignored.

Dunn said in the interview that her husband, now-White House lawyer Bob Bauer, was “surprised to see me as someone who could be talked over in meetings.”

The short story, it’s typical corporate under-the-radar discrimination.  The women staffers and cabinet members will no doubt be told that they are being too sensitive or paranoid but after their work fails to get the recognition it deserves or requires, she’s going to feel the stress of always being on the outside looking in and missing the crucial milestones necessary to get a promotion and exercise power.  When the crucial decision making meetings happen, she won’t be aware of them.  They might be impromptu, like during lunch at a table where few women are invited to join.  Or at golf games.  Or a meeting may be arranged where the scheduler has a propensity for the hierarchical and no juniors are invited, most of those juniors happening to be women.  Or the female staffer may need to gather information and sends out a survey email, which for some unknown reason, several more senior sycophants fail to respond to.  Or at a department meeting during your presentation, the guys talk over you or interrupt you or speed up your presentation or slow it down so they can ask you questions that were not in the scope of the presentation.  If you’ve been taking data, you’ll have realized by now that men rarely receive this kind of treatment, but it all contributes to making you look just a little bit unprepared or not quite knowing what’s really going on (because you weren’t there when they told the guys what was really going on).  Heck, you’re lucky you get a chance to present at all.  The stars get their 45 minutes of fame at every meeting while you have to book a slot months in advance.  That kind of stuff.

Oh, Ladies, I have seen it all.  These are deaths by a thousand paper cuts.  It’s disrespectful, isolating, humiliating and prevents you from looking like you’re doing your best job.  But it’s not grabbing and propositioning.  Without the sexual aspect, this more pernicious and devastating career stalling form of discrimination never gets the proper attention it deserves.  The fact that this is happening at the Obama White House does not surprise me at all.  I’ve seen this report coming for two years now, ever since the bunch of guys who run Obama’s campaign thought it would be a great idea if Michelle took on a more traditional first lady role.  Let her stay at home with two school aged adolescents who no longer require full time care.  She can garden in her spare time and lecture all the other mothers about nutrition.  It so fits the upper middle class suburban mother demographic.  Her sphere of influence is to set an example of what a demure, respectful, “had my fun in my career but now find complete fulfillment as a full time mother with a lot of time on my hands to make you feel inadequate as a mother” should be.  This is the game in the suburbs, who can outmother.  Who chauffeurs more, who is more alert to safety issues, who sets more limits on their childrens’ {freinds, TVtime, sugar ingestion, independence}  She is a throw back to the woman who defers, whose identity depends on her husband.  I’m sure the evangelicals are eating it up with a genuine jesus plated spoon.  But her example does not help the women who are tasked with working with her husband and his cabinet.  The specter of Michelle, digging in the garden like a good PTA mom, contributes to an attitude that women don’t put their careers first.  They can’t handle it.  They’ll stress out and go home.  But the worst type of stress is caused by male generated obstructions that keep you from getting your work done efficiently.

The kind of behavior described in Susskind’s book results in a lot of lost opportunities.  There won’t be a lot of thinking outside the box if half of the staff doesn’t get heard or taken seriously.  It’s a waste of talent.  It costs us money.  Think of Christina Romer, giving the right answer as to the size of the stimulus package, overridden by Geithner and then having to fight for the privilege to give her input during meetings when guy after guy were called on and she was passed over.  If I were her, I’d be pissed.  But let me guess what happened when she brought it up.  She was told she wasn’t being a team player, that she was too sensitive.  What she really meant to say was, “I had something important to say and now you are going to make your decisions without hearing it”.  And they probably did.  Romer stuck it out for a couple of years and then had enough and went home.  It’s real discrimination all right but there’s no definition for the disrespect and dismissal that happens day after day.  It’s pervasive and nebulous.

What could the White House have done differently?  Well, first, it could have refrained from running such a bloody relentless, sexist campaign.  Second, it could have instituted a training program and guidelines and hold violators accountable.  That might have included instructing male staffers to answer all phone calls and emails promptly no matter who was requesting, it could have monitored the response time to those requests and analyzed the data to determine who were the biggest offenders, if could have had meetings videotaped and analyzed for inappropriate indifference to the input of female attendees or interruptions of her presentation.  It could have analysed the words used to comment on the presentations of men and women.  A computational linguist might have been hired to to this.  The White House might have made a rule about golf outings.  All golf outings must be composed of equal parts men and women.  Same with any on-site activity.  Male or female only lunch groups should be discouraged.  It’s hard to monitor off-site activities but any opportunities that result in the male staff taking their shirts off in a bar while their female companions remain clothed should be discussed as to the messages sent to all members present and the public at large.  How about a dress code?  You can’t force guys to take off their ties but there has to be a female equivalent to give them power.  Find a way to get rid of symbols of male authority and female subordination.

Have training sessions that explain how damaging it is to refer to assertive women as “not team players” or “hard to work with” or any other code word used to undermine her authority.  For too long, women are coached to walk a thin line and never be too assertive or two passive so as to not upset the mens folk.  It never works.  Women can always be criticized for something.  This coaching of female staff is completely wasted because the violators of creating this hostile workplace (and trust me, it is very hostile) are never held responsible for their behavior.  That behavior makes it very difficult for women to present their ideas and work in a manner that will be recognized and will get things done.  And when you hire women on your staff and let the men act like cock-of-the-walk assholes, the only ideas you’re going to get to work with will be the ones generated by cock-of-the-walk assholes and women will despise you because none of your solutions seem to have anything that will make their lives better.

What we’re seeing at the White House is the same kind of cut throat, kill your enemies behavior seen in corporate culture.  That culture is exacerbated by the business school class that is always trying to climb over the broken back of the person who stands in their way of the next position up the ladder.  It seeps down to all levels of the corporation and becomes intensified among the rank and file where keeping one’s job becomes a vicious and nasty game of musical chairs.  Most upper managers are men and they identify with men and many women are left without mentors or the respect they need to stay in the game.  That’s why you can see departments lose 80% of their women staffers during a layoff and never blink an eye.  Of course, some areas and fields of expertise are different than others but when the women of MIT set out to document the atrocities, they found that it wasn’t just all in their heads.  It’s real.  But it can be fixed, if there is the will to do it.  It doesn’t look like the White House thinks this is an important issue to tackle.

The fact that it’s happening at the White House and that Obama hasn’t done anything in 3 years to mitigate it, speaks volumes to me about just what kind of president he is.  Corporate, sexist without even knowing it, probably dismissive of complaints, oblivious that there’s a problem at all and incurious about why it is that so many of the people he promotes and listens to are male.

Ladies, we KNOW these guys.  Why in world would we ever want to vote for another man for president is beyond me.  Obama seems to be taking this country backwards to the 60’s.  He has learned nothing.  And sexism, far from being unimportant in the whole scheme of things, like rescuing the economy, it is the linchpin as to why the economy is in as bad shape as it is.  Sheila Bair wanted to nationalize the biggest banks, Christina Romer wanted to double the stimulus package.  They were both overruled.  The next in line to be press secretary, Karen Finney, was passed over so that Jay Carney, a dude on Biden’s staff could take the position.  What happened there?  What was even more shocking is that Nancy Pelosi wasn’t initially invited to the talks about the debt ceiling crisis.  That’s inexcusable.  No-, really, I’m amazed that the media let them get away with that.  The only person who seems to know how to command attention and respect in Obama’s cabinet is Hillary Clinton.  And we don’t even know the whole story there.  (I’m betting she doesn’t put up with un-returned phone calls and emails)

This book should be good.  I’m using one of my last 2 audible credits to snag one.  But if I were one of the Obama girls who latched onto him to look cool and aspirational instead of old, stupid and menopausal, I’d be feeling pretty stupid right now.  Big mistake.  Massive.

Hellooo? Paycheck Fairness Bill? Anyone??

For some peculiar reason, the news that there will be a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Bill today has somehow slipped right under the radar.  How could that be??  Where is NOW?  This issue gets second billing on their front page.

Did anyone really buy that crap the Democrats were floating about Lilly Ledbetter?  I’m not saying it’s not an important bill but it’s sort of like the People’s Front of Judea fighting for a man’s right to have babies even though he ” ‘asn’t got a ‘oomb’ “.  Come to think of it, if men wanted to have babies, that bill would probably get passed first.

C’mon people.  Who’s really going to go to HR and ask to see the salaries of everyone in the department?  It’s like branding your forehead with a giant “L”.  HR is there to serve management, not troublemaking upstarts.  And it’s only after you have the information that you know whether there’s a suit worth pursuing.

In any case, the bill is supposed to fall 60 votes short in the Senate.  Are you frickin’ kidding me??  There are a bunch of lame ducks in the Senate.  If they can’t take a stand for women and do something right now, when can we ever expect such a thing?  And this would be a great boost to the economy that wouldn’t cost the government a cent.  Yeah, actually pay women what they’re worth so they can go and buy stuff.  What we really need for the economy to improve is for wages to increase and we’re half the fricking country.  It’s a no-brainer guys.  Even Republican women will love you for it.  You don’t get better political cover than this.

So, what gives?  Why is the concept of Paycheck Fairness, getting paid the same wages for the same work, regardless of your gender, meeting so much resistance in the 21st century?   If there was only one regulation worth passing on business this session, this bill would be it.

And we hear- nothing.

Barack Obama’s Double Bind

Awhile back, RonKSeattle challenged us to find out about Barack Obama.  Who is he really? 

Obama is the unknown quantity. He’s a big deal, but is he the real deal? In his meteoric rise, the usual questions haven’t been faced. The usual record hasn’t been demonstrated. Will his bubble simply burst, leaving Wolcott’s puddle of melting iridescence? 

For an individual approaching the presidency at a defining moment — not to mention leadership of our Party at a critical juncture — we know precious little of Obama the man, or Obama the plan.

I’d like to explore this with the help of the rest of you wonderful Conflucians.  For the first time in long time, I feel that I’m in a place and among people where I can safely express my real thoughts and feelings about Barack Obama.  This post is a starting point only. Continue reading

Ladies, don’t be nervous

ElizabethI don’t think I have to tell any women reading this blog about how the blogosphere, even the lefty side, is dominated by men. DailyKos and Firedoglake are exceptions when it comes to editorial power, but most commenters are still guys. And DailyKos has been infiltrated by a large number of what seems like particularly nasty, young, hostile hooligans with testosterone poisoning. They’re mean and intimidating so a lot of women don’t post or comment. They just lurk because it’s safer.

But here’s the deal, if you let these idiots intimidate you, *they* control the discourse. Republicans are very good at ‘perception management’, that is, warping the observer’s perception of reality. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if a lot of the recent hooliganism was driven by Republicans who very much want Obama to win and will find a way to shut up opposing voices. You don’t have to be paranoid to buy into this notion. You just have to think like Karl Rove. What would *he* do to make sure the pro-Clinton activists look like red headed stepchildren and chip away at their foothold in the blogosphere?

So, here’s my message to you: Whether they are genuine Obama supporters or just posing as them, they don’t like you or your message. But they are only pixels on a screen. They cannot hurt you. They can say nasty, hurtful things. They can attack your self image. They can gang up on you and try to make you shut up. But they can’t actually shut you up if you don’t let them. What are they going to do, those little black dots, “nibble your bum”? Oh, sure, they can trollstorm you off DailyKos. So, find another place to blog. Be like water, find the path of least resistance. Get in their face. When they tell you to shut up, tell them, “Make me”. And keep it light. Because one of the great things about posting on a blog is that you actually have the time to think of a snappy and devastating, self-esteem levelling response. If you ever wanted to tell some big jerk off with a witty rejoinder, now’s your chance.

Friends, if you want to vote for a woman because she’s the best qualified candidate AND she’s a woman, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. It’s your right to identify with the hardest working, most intelligent candidate of the bunch. And when you’re in the privacy of the voting booth, you have the right to make history. Ain’t nobody’s business if you do. And if that’s not incentive enough, just think about how the media pundits’ and wingers’ heads will explode on Tuesday night. *That* alone will be totally worth it.

With that in mind, ghost2 has helped me assemble some links from around the web that might inspire and empower you to get back in there and fight harder:

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 472 other followers