Susan B. Glasser, Editor of Politico, tells her story about Editing While Female, and points to the generic conventions of complaints about women in leadership positions in modern journalism:
Shortly before I became the editor of the national news section of the WashingtonPost in late 2006, Ben Bradlee, the legendary former editor of the Post, came up to me at a party. I hear you’re going to get the national job, he said to me. “Do you have the balls for it?”
I was 37 years old, my son was a toddler, and my incredibly supportive husband, the Post’s longtime White House reporter. I was sure that I did. But I was wrong.
She continues, “In the course of my short and controversial tenure in the job, I learned several things,”
among them: 1) print newspapers REALLY, REALLY didn’t want to change to adapt to the new digital realities; 2) I did not have the full backing of the paper’s leadership to carefully shepherd a balky, unhappy staff of 100 or so print reporters and editors across that unbuilt bridge to the 21st century; and 3) media reporters are an obsessive bunch, and they like nothing more than a good controversial-woman-editor story.
In the end, just about every single thing that has been said about Jill Abramson and Natalie Nougayrède was also said about me. That I was difficult and hard to understand and divisive. That there were questions of “management style.” Some of them were surely true, then and now. When I hear Abramson called pushy or Nougayrède called uncommunicative, it’s with a shudder of recognition. You can’t get to greatness by enabling mediocrity; in male leaders, this is called having high standards and it is praised.Places like the New York Times, Le Monde and the Washington Post are not given to elevating editors—of any gender—who would accept anything other than the highest of standards. As in tough, demanding, challenging. But there’s no doubt that many find this off-putting and threatening from a certain kind of woman. Like me.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve been exchanging emails with a lot of really depressed women these days.