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Dismissal of Editor Raises Debate about Workplace Equality

Jill Abramson, former executive editor of The New York Times, receives an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., May 19, 2014.
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The first woman to serve as executive editor of The New York Times was dismissed last week. Jill Abramson had led the newspaper since 2011. Her sudden dismissal has raised the issue of differences between the pay of men and women at American companies. It also raised questions about whether female supervisors are treated differently than supervisors who are male.

Jill Abramson was at Wake Forest University in North Carolina on Monday. She spoke at a ceremony to recognize Wake Forest students for completing their studies. The speech came less than a week after Ms. Abramson was ousted as the top editor at one of the best known newspapers in the United States. She told the graduating students about rejection and resilience – the ability to bounce back.

“And now I am talking to anyone who’s been dumped. You bet – not gotten the job you really wanted or receive those horrible rejection letters from grad school. You know the sting of losing or not getting something you badly want. When that happens, show what you are made of.”

The publisher of The New York Times says Ms. Abramson was replaced because of her management style. Some reports say she was ousted after claiming that she was paid less than the man she replaced as executive editor. Whatever the real reason, the case has led to a debate in the United States about women’s equality in the workplace and in society.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about the general issue at a recent World Bank conference.

“Women’s equal, full participation, their voice and agency, is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing. And that it will make a difference to the prosperity and stability of societies.”

John Ryder is a psychologist, someone who studies behavior and mental processes. He deals with work place issues. He said “respect and trust” are important for both men and women in leadership.

“What I would urge is that not only that women stand up and ask for respect, ask for equal treatment under whatever the laws are, but that men also ask themselves how important it is for us to trust one another.”

He says the failure of a supervisor to ask other top officials for their opinion can lead to big trouble. Some reports say this may have been an issue in Jill Abramson’s dismissal.
“She did not want to reveal all (of) the cards she’s playing with and that created tension between her and the management that she was unable to resolve.”

Recent university graduates are asking the same questions as Ms. Abramson.
“What’s next for me? I don’t know. So I am in exactly the same boat as many of you.”

Her dismissal from one of the top media jobs in the U.S. will continue to create debate about women’s struggle for workplace equality.