Jill Abramson Says The NY Times Isn’t The End Of Her Career

Jill-abramson

Jill Abramson was the executive editor of the New York Times, before being fired recently. She was the first woman to take up the lead role at the iconic paper in 2011, until she was let go mid-May. She is replaced by her deputy, Dean Baquet who becomes the first African-American editor of the paper which has been around for 163 years.

Yay for diversity and all, but the firing of Jill has caused a lot of women in the feminist community to be outraged, especially because it seems to reinforce the gender stereotypes that we fall prey to all too often: being labeled as too “bossy”, “pushy” or “bitchy”.

Official reports from the NYT say she butted heads with people in the newsroom which led to her firing. It was an issue relating to Jill hiring a new co-managing editor behind the backs of other executives. Whatever the reason is, it really sucks that the media is having a field day by labeling her as an unlikeable woman and promoting the negative imagery of women in positions of leadership.

While plenty of news media continue to report on her firing and what it means, Jill herself hasn’t fallen prey to the rumor mill and has continued on with her life, with dignity and aplomb!

Literally a week after her firing, Jill gave a commencement speech at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Her speech was probably more important than ever, given her recent firing, and it was filled with lessons to the graduating students about the realities of life. This speech was the first official appearance she has made since losing her job, and it couldn’t have been more awesome.

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Wake Forest Alum Al Hunt introduced her and made mention about the gender discrimination and glass ceiling which still exists for women.

“It is said she can be a tough, no-nonsense, even pushy, in her passionate commitment to truth,” Hunt said. “That’s what makes a great editor.”

He also called her an “iron lady” which is funny because that’s how many people referred to ex UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She too was a the first woman in her post, and became a highly polarizing figure. It says a lot about women who are strong and great leaders. Why can’t we pay attention to their other attributes also? Why does society only want to pay attention to their leadership styles and criticize them personally? Do men in leadership get criticized for their personality traits or for the work they do?

Jill used her own personal experience to encourage the graduates to rise above and show the world what they are made of when a setback happens.

“I’m talking to anyone who’s been dumped, not gotten the job you really wanted, or received those horrible rejection letters from grad school. You know the sting of losing,” she said. “When that happens, show what you are made of. We human beings are a lot more resilient than we realize.”

She ended with: “What’s next for me? I don’t know. So I’m in exactly the same boat as many of you. And like you, I’m a little scared but also excited.”

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And for the record, her pay was exactly the same as those of her male counterparts in the same position as her at the Times. So the real story here is a woman who had the misfortune of attracting a media circus over her firing (something which most of us don’t have in real life) and who has a legacy that she can count on to inspire others, despite the setbacks and difficulties she experiences.

Showing “what she is really made of” is the only response she has given publicly since losing her prestigious job and we are in awe of a woman who is not allowing any negativity stop her from being recognized for the things she is great at. She mentioned in her speech that “losing a job you love hurts” but it is also not the end of the road, unless you allow it.

Part of Jill appearing at this exciting occasion and speaking to students who are on the cusp of entering the real world sends a powerful message: that sometimes you have to do your best and show up even when you don’t feel like it. Life isn’t always easy but how you deal with the tough times sends a loud message to those around you and will determine what your next step will be.

Watch the commencement speech below, and remember that when it comes down to it, we are all the same as Jill Abramson and there is something we can all learn from how she is dealing with this.

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