This is an actual headline from the New York Times: “Do Women Have What It Takes To Lead?" Leaving aside for a moment the head-bonking trolliness of such a headline, it bears pointing out that the New York Times is CURRENTLY LED BY A WOMAN. Jill Abramson is the executive editor of the NYT and the first woman in the paper’s storied history to hold that position. In her own words, she is definitely not chopped liver.
The only good thing about this is the delicious irony of a banner ad for “Ann” directly above it. God, I’d love to see that anonymous headline writer TRY to get that question past Ann Richards.
Thanks to some energetic and outraged tweets, NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan has addressed the issue with a delicious headline: “Is There Really Room To Debate Whether Women Can Lead?" Ha.
I’m pleased to report that CTR & TheLi.st were key catalysts in getting to this point. After Stephanie Goodell & Callie Schweitzer posted on our internal listserv, I grabbed the screenshot above and sent it out into the world. Elizabeth Plank picked it up at PolicyMic and Harvard Business Review editor Sarah Green tweeted it to the attention of Margaret Sullivan, whom Sarah and I urged to address it in her column. And lo! She did.
Love this from Sarah Green:
“If you substituted any other demographic group, I think there would have been an a-ha moment by an editor that this wasn’t such a good idea,” she told me.
Loved this significantly less from ‘Room For Debate’ editor Susan Ellingwood:
Raising a provocative question is our way of starting an interesting discussion. That title starts a productive conversation about gender stereotypes and leadership – even if, in the end, the consensus among the debaters is “yes, women do have what it takes.” Each post explored the question from a different angle. And as readers’ reactions show, the pieces sparked a conversation about an important topic. That’s our goal.
What struck all of us here at Room for Debate is that the publicity around Sheryl Sandberg’s book promotes an aggressive self-centered “male” approach to leadership, and yet there are many studies that show that team-building and consensus, seen as a “female,” approach to leadership can be more effective.
Ugh. First of all, do not pat yourself on the back for being provocative. Perhaps you’d like to wonder aloud about Barack Obama’s birth certificate? Give me a break. There is “provocative” and there is “open question” and this is neither. It’s just trolling. End of story.
Second, “the publicity around Sheryl Sandberg’s book” does not at ALL promote an “aggressively self-centered ‘male’ approach to leadership.” WTF?!?! That is just wrong. As a member of Sheryl’s Lean In launch team I can’t think of any of the “publicity” around the book that answers to that description. Nor the site. Nor the book. Did Ellingwood even read it? Only one of the so-called “debators” even referenced Sandberg - or the data in the book. I disagree vehemently with her characterization here, and DEFINITELY disagree with it as even the remotest justification for that stupid headline.
That stupid headline, which still remains on the NYT site. With a LOT of disgusted comments (this one is my favorite). Still, encouraging to see it addressed and even more encouraging to know it was catalyzed by the CTR community. We are the butterfly flapping in the rainforest of the internet! Or something. Either way, cool.