On Wednesday, The New York Times announced it had dismissed its executive editor, Jill Abramson. The famed publication cited "tension" with management as the reason behind Abramson's termination, while The New Yorker reported that Abramson had been paid less than her male predecessor, Bill Keller. On the exact same day, across the pond, prominent French newspaper Le Monde was also losing its top editor, Natalie Nougayrède.
Abramson, who had been labeled "pushy," was let go after three years of being the 163-year-old publication's first female executive editor. Le Monde's Nougayrède, who had been called "authoritarian" and "Putin-like" in recent weeks, was forced out after her staff revolted against plans to combine the print and online staff. Like Abramson, Nougayrède had only been at her post for a relatively short amount of time before exiting — in her case, 14 months. And like Abramson, she was the newspaper's first female editor-in-chief.
The opposition to Nougayrède's plans for digitizing the newspaper was a somewhat gradual process; two of her deputies resigned last week, and seven other editors quit weeks before. The staff had long criticized Nougayrède's inability to build consensus, and staff discontent came to a head when she announced plans to transfer more than 50 staff members from the print publication over to the online edition.
In the last few years, Le Monde, like many other newspapers, has sunk into debt as it struggled to stay afloat during tough economic times and compete with free internet sites. "The personal and direct attacks against the management and myself prevent me from implementing the transformation plan I put to shareholders and which requires the broad agreement of the editorial teams," Nougayrède wrote in an email to her staff.
In her official letter of resignation, which was posted on Le Monde's website, Nougayrède says, "I no longer have the means to run it with all the necessary peace and serenity that is required."
Of course, just as with the circumstances surrounding Abramson's ousting, it's impossible to avoid the issue of gender bias when evaluating Nougayrède's resignation. "Some of the very qualities that make for great top-level editors, such as firm decision-making ability and willingness to stand up for your point of view against competing interests — are qualities that are often lauded in men and seen as overly abrasive in women," feminist writer Ann Friedman told Politico.
Based on that notion, Friedman created a clever blog post that gives examples of this incredibly archaic double standard. A statement about a woman is placed side by side with what one would say about the same behavior or trait in a man. Just picture Abramson or Nougayrède in these scenarios, and you can begin to imagine the adversity they might have faced at the top.
She’s a source of widespread frustration and anxiety who is demoralizing, uncaring, morale-draining, and very unpopular. He demands excellence and relevance.
She is difficult to work with, unreasonable, impossible, stubborn. He has a strong vision and insists on seeing it carried out.
She is AWOL and disengaged. He attended Sundance and SXSW.
She is not a naturally charismatic person, not approachable, tough as nails. He is direct.
She is brusque, blunt, and dismissive. He does not like to waste time."
She is uncaring, unable to march forward or provide reassurance, and doesn’t make people feel good. He is not your mommy."
She is condescending. He is the boss.