Kara Swisher on Being an Assertive Woman in the Newsroom

Kara Swisher, co-executive editor of Re/code, writes about what it’s like to be one of the few women working as a top editor in the journalism field, and how men and women are treated differently in leadership roles:

I can relate, to say the least. As one of the few top editors in tech journalism who is a woman and, even from my many years of reporting before that, I cannot tell you the number of times that I have been called a pain in the ass for my aggressive manner. Silly me, but that kind of tonality is exactly what makes for a successful journalist — you know, afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted — and what is more often than not needed in the sometimes rough-and-tumble world of media.

This characterization of me manifested all the time, and nearly every woman in the newsroom has a similar story. Asking for a lot and being firm about it shifts quickly into “you don’t have to be so rude,” although yes, I do. Make a definite assertion about a story or a project that is different from others in group — you know just to actually get new ideas out there — and you’re not a team player, although I had no idea work was a soccer game. Tell someone what you honestly think of them without a lot of pretty icing, and then you are a class-A, well, you know that word.

This has been a common theme in the coverage of the Abramson debacle — how different behavioral standards are applied to men and women, how strongly confident women get turned into waspish shrews, while men become commanding figures of authority. That’s the cliché, of course, but it does not make it any less true.

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Photo of Kara Swisher by Loic Le Meur