After all, this is the "Lean In" year, when the battle to dismantle stereotypes of women as business leaders has been renewed with unprecedented vigor. That it is still even an issue is shameful enough, but it seems to define every coming and going of a woman in power.
Like you, I have read hours of speculation about why the Times dumped Abramson -- and despite leaks, follow-up staff memos and rampant speculation, the closest we can seem to come to the truth is that she lost the confidence of her boss Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., the paper’s publisher. Yes, lots of folks apparently were in his face about Abramson's "management style," saying she could be sharp, unpredictable, peremptory and erratic: traits that characterize the "management style" of many business leaders of both genders.
For all her universally praised ability as a news editor, perhaps Abramson did not hone the fine art of managing up, making certain that she was on the same page as Sulzberger. I think many folks in power feel like their hiring mandate gives them more latitude to maneuver without air cover or approval than they really have. They know they have unique talents that brought them to the pinnacle of their profession, which gives them a little more freedom (and protection) in how they administer their operations. Well, only up to a point.
In my career I had the unfortunate opportunity to work with a couple of top managers who specialized in making the lives of their reports miserable -- Katharine Graham at the Washington Post and Dick Snyder at Simon & Schuster. History can judge their effectiveness at running their respective businesses, but I can assure you that in each case I was witness to, and at times a victim of, "management styles" that probably made Jill Abramson on her worst day look like a Girl Scout. I could not attribute a female or male nature to Graham’s or Snyder’s tirades and humiliations; they simply loved abusing their power.
Which brings me back to the Abramson event. Isn't it entirely possible that she lost her job because management felt she was somehow not up to the task? That it had nothing to do with gender? Sulzberger certainly knew the shitstorm he was kicking up by firing such a high-level woman, but apparently felt he had to do it.
You can argue all day long that women are held to different standards than men when being judged, especially by a male superior who is undoubtedly part of the Old Boy's Club. But I am not convinced that every time a senior-level women gets the ax, it is because of her gender.