Was Sexism a Factor in Carol Bartz’s Yahoo Firing?

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That’s the headline of this column by Jeff Bercovici over at Forbes.com.  It features a colloquy between Mr. Bercovici and fellow Forbes writer Jenna Goudreau.  Ms. Goudreau comments:

Studies have shown that assertiveness in women often reads as aggressiveness (read: “abrasive,” “bitchy,” etc.) and in men as strength. I honestly don’t know if sexism played a part here. Her departure may have been a bit unceremonious, though, if reports are true: A sudden firing by phone with no replacement lined up. What I’m more interested in is the macro perspective. The numbers have been pathetic for years, but now with Bartz out only 2.8% of the 500 largest companies in the U.S. are run by women. That’s ridiculous. Seen another way, men run 97.2% of our biggest companies. Yesterday was just a bad day for America’s leading ladies. BofA’s Sallie Krawcheck, often called “the most powerful woman on Wall Street,” also left her post.

The full column is here.  My favorite line from the piece is, “Might things have turned out differently if she had a power donut instead of a blond bob?”  Such an evocative visual!

Was sexism a factor in Carol Bartz’s firing?  I have no idea.  I’m glad the Forbes writer is asking the question.  “Power Donuts vs. Blond Bobs.”  That would make for a great title for a law review article.  Or a screenplay, 9 to 5 style, with Jane Fonda.

I have commented before (here) on the gendered terms that at least one CEO has used to describe Bartz.

-Bridget Crawford

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