Earlier this week, the executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson, was swiftly dismissed from her position at the newspaper. She had held the position for roughly three years and made history as the paper’s first female executive editor. Rumors quickly swirled over the reasons behind the dismissal. One rumor that popped up was that she was fired over her objections to her pay. Basically, she claimed that she was being paid less than her predecessor, Bill Keller. It appears that it is no longer a rumor, as the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta has reported that Abramson’s objections to her compensation compared with her male colleagues was a major contributing factor to her dismissal.
As Auletta pointed out in his piece with the New Yorker that came out Thursday evening (and was updated Friday morning), Abramson made a significant amount less than Keller during her first year as executive editor of the paper.
Let’s look at some numbers I’ve been given: As executive editor, Abramson’s starting salary in 2011 was $475,000, compared to Keller’s salary that year, $559,000. Her salary was raised to $503,000, and—only after she protested—was raised again to $525,000. She learned that her salary as managing editor, $398,000, was less than that of the male managing editor for news operations, John Geddes. She also learned that her salary as Washington bureau chief, from 2000 to 2003, was a hundred thousand dollars less than that of her successor in that position, Phil Taubman.
Sure, Abramson represents just one example, but it sure does seem that the Times made a habit out of paying a woman less to do the same job than a man. On at least three occasions, Abramson made significantly less than a man who held the same position. And on one of those occasions, she was making less than a man who held a position underneath her. No matter how the Times tries to spin this, it appears that they were definitely paying Abramson less money that they would have paid a male in the same position.
The paper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger. Jr., and CEO, Mark Thompson, have both objected to the notion that Abramson was compensated less than her colleagues. However, a spokeswoman for the Times, Eileen Murphy, did confirm that Abramson pushing the issue contributed to her dismissal and fed into the narrative that she was combative. Below is another excerpt from Auletta’s piece:
Abramson’s attempt to raise the salary issue at a time when tempers were already frayed seemed wrongheaded to Sulzberger and Thompson, both on its merits and in terms of her approach. Bringing in a lawyer, in particular, seems to have struck them as especially combative. Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, argued that there was no real compensation gap, but conceded to me that “this incident was a contributing factor” to the firing of Abramson, because “it was part of a pattern.”
Besides the gender pay gap, which has been a hot button issue in the nation for a while, it also appears that the Times brass is creating a narrative around her dismissal that smacks of gender stereotyping. On top of the characterization that she is “combative,” Auletta wrote the following in his blog on Wednesday:
“She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect.”
Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon also wrote an article on Thursday discussing the implied sexism behind the characterization of Abramson as ‘pushy’ and ‘bossy,’ suggesting that men who acted in a similar way would not be labeled as such. As Williams pointed out in her piece, the connotation is that Abramson somehow exhibits “unladlylike behavior.” Obviously, you don’t see this label applied to males showing similar behavior.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).