Jill Abramson’s Salary Should Have Been Lower Than Her Male Predecessor

Jill Abramson

Rumors are flying. The scuttlebutt is that Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of The New York Times, was paid less than her predecessor, a man, Bill Keller.

Supposedly, she was outraged at the compensation discrepancy. Others have chimed in suggesting that this is heresy.

As a New York Times’ loyalist, I hope she was being paid less than Bill Keller.

The New York Times is a struggling entity. Its revenues are less than half what they were in 2003 when Bill Keller was hired as executive editor. Today the paper is constantly struggling with profitability.  The Times must make strategic investments to survive in the new economy.

At the end of 2013, The New York Times employed 3,529 people. My guess is that 1400 to 2100 of these people were women.  These are real people whose livelihoods need to be protected.

As a person who has run organizations, both large and small, for most of my adult life, I can say the responsible thing to do when a job needs to be replaced at a struggling company is to save money.  Management’s job is to help ensure that all employees in the organization (both male and female) can retain their jobs and be fairly compensated – while ensuring that the entity as a whole continues to survive and prosper.

Naturally, as an outsider I don’t know the specifics of Jill Abramson’s performance, and I can’t weigh in on the appropriateness of her termination   But I can say that had she been paid less — at least in base compensation — than her predecessor when times were better (no pun intended), it would have been the right thing for management to do.

Women, with the same degree of competency and experience as men, should never be paid less when doing the same job, at the same time, for the same organization.  But this is not one of those circumstances.

Finally, Jill Abramson has been replaced by a man.  The responsible thing for The New York Times management to do would be to pay him less than she made.  That’s not sexist, it’s responsible management.

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