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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).

 

 

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“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.

 

Men do not mentor women. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

If a man is in a managerial position and he’s demanding, he’s headed for the corner office.  If a woman is demanding, she’s “hard to deal with”.

This is in reference to the recent firing of Jill Abramson to be replaced by her deputy editor Dean Baquet.

This article in the New Yorker is CHOCKFULL TO THE BRIM with every cliched gender based reason why the woman had to go that I have ever seen.  What’s really astonishing is that the male underling complains to the publisher at dinner about his woman boss when it was that very woman boss who set him up for the dinner.  Why am I not surprised?  “Awww, she made a decision without consulting you?  What a meany.  Well, this is the last straw.  She’s got to go.  Hey, why don’t YOU take her job?”

Now, I have heard a lot of nice things about Dean Baquet.  He’s a nice manager.  He’s unfailingly polite.  Everybody likes him.  That sounds like it’s in contrast to Abramson who was probably just acting like an editor in her position.  You would have thought that the 8 Pulitzers her paper has won since her tenure began would make a difference.  Nope.

Here’s the problem with women in a corporation.  Men act like adolescents who are dealing with their mothers.  Or girlfriends.  If she tries to get her work done and is assertive or needs to exercise authority, it is immediately seen as aggressive and she’s “hard to deal with” or “not a team player”.  If she backs off and speaks softly and is genial and friendly like Dean Baquet, “she’s not up to the job” or “too passive”.  Yeah, try swapping the two personalities.  Would Jill Abramson ever become executive editor at the New York Times if she had been “unfailingly polite”, “genial” and well-liked?  How about if Dean Baquet had been brusque and aggressive?

For every woman in power, there will always be a male in the group who will want her job and will use every gender stereotype to get her out of the way.  It’s extremely easy for guys to manipulate cultural stereotypes to shape perceptions and move into positions of power.  It’s extremely easy because no one stops it.  It’s not all about the money, although that’s very important.  It’s more about the lack of authority even if a woman is doing a good job.

I’ve seen it before.  Usually, it’s the woman who has to consult a career coach to make sure she is not offending any man with her unreasonable demands to get stuff done.  It never works.

That’s because it is the men who need the coaching.  Better yet, Sulzberger should have just told Baquet to STFU and do what he was hired to do.

Yeah, yeah, I’m dreaming.