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With the firing of Jill Abramson, the mystery surrounding her unceremonious letting go from the New York Times that remains the question against the backdrop of successful women and what they have to say about how they got to where they are, what women need to do to reach their heights detailed in bestselling books like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean in and Arianna Huffington’s Thrive. Books paralleling news stories about how women exhibiting the same positive traits as men are negatively viewed by bosses, coworkers, even fellow women, the fact that president Obama had to sign legislation in 2014 guaranteeing equal pay to women doing the same job. Down to the latest almost self-help offering by famous duo Shipman and Kay, The Confidence Code, stating compared to men, women are suffering from an acute lack of confidence. Still up for debate is the source of this lack; is it a result of cultural conditioning the impetuous behind Sheryl Sandberg’s campaign to ban bossy giving girls a better shot at leadership from an early age, is it still existing old boys clubs where they only begrudgingly allow women and refuse to correct the obvious income disparity, why many have come to believe Abramson was forced out? Or is it antiquated paradigms remaining in operation causing hiring managers, bosses to continue seeing women and men differently, in all the wrong lights, when it comes time to discuss that promotion, suggest a department change? Giving a man the job precisely because he has a family to support while concurrently not wanting to burden the woman housing family responsibilities with the added work of a promotion, type thing? Is it all of the above, is it just how far we haven’t gone, could it be something completely different; perhaps where our economy hasn’t gone for example, the jobs that just aren’t there, the recovery that has never fully materialized? Could it be less based on gender, pay inequality and more based on these women looking great on paper, poor in practice, looking like they have the goods, falling utterly short, women or not, being plainly abysmal at management?

The singular common thread purported by every listed author now making a second name for themselves with their publications name it a crisis of confidence, yet is it women truly think so little of themselves, have such low opinions of their performance on tests, their readiness for promotions non-commiserate with reality or is it the, hard to argue with, facts brought to bear by the MSNBC’s Disrupt panel? That essentially Shipman and Kay, and by extension the others writing on the topic are writing about two very different groups of women, experiencing two vastly different working environments. One, expounded on specifically by Shipman and Kay, explored from a personal viewpoint by Sandberg focusing on well paid, well educated, well placed white, professional women; the other encompassing every other working woman, women of color particularly, forcing them to take the job at offered pay and say thank you very much, but not talked about in any of the author’s findings, memoirs about getting to the top, how to stay there. Spot on analysis reminding us while inarguably well to do women are biting their nails over whether they measure up to the job they purposefully went after, climbed a career ladder to get to, unquestionably wanted, working class women are fighting to find a job that pays their bills, lets them provide for their children, even think about having a family someday. While women of obvious good caliber, successful, knowledgeable of their respective fields are hemming and hawing over women’s unflattering assessment of their abilities, actually have time to contemplate such things, less wealthy, less lucky women, let’s not leave out significant portions of everyone else, gender aside, are simultaneously trying to work their way up to a job so much as offering benefits. When it’s not that, locking horns with their employers about paid sick leave, maternity leave, impossibly trying to iron out childcare so they can report to work, be on time, be undistracted thus keeping the job they have, forget if they get promoted. Similarly is it that women always devalue their readiness, their skillsets, what they bring to the table or is it that they better understand those qualities, abilities they do possess, are more attuned to looking at the whole picture than their male counterparts who just jump in with both feet? Consistently, repeatedly, across the globe, overestimating their abilities; often to their own detriment in the boardroom as much as the home DIY project, the refusal to ask for directions on family vacation sacrificing an entire day. Neither do men always readily bounce back especially from business failure; this is a myth. For every one man who manages to restart a business after catastrophic failure, land another field specific job after whatever they were in charge of at their previous job went horribly wrong, go into an adjacent field all the happier thanks to the change; there are the men who end up flipping burgers, working retail, cleaning toilets in order to work. Men who, post huge failure, flit from job to job, always have the next big idea, are always talking about the next new thing they want to do, want to try but can never seem to make happen. Sounding an awful lot like the drooping black success narrative, we ignore them as big talkers, shifty persons and go on about our lives wishing we didn’t have to encounter them at all. Interesting how both sections of society get so little chance to exercise their business acumen, their obvious talent in a male favored, it’s ok to fail environment.                 

Still do Shipman and Kay have it right that girls, who grow up to be women, are being raised to be perfect, people pleasers almost having too much success in academia and not enough experience with failure, the larger generational discussion today across genders, to take the same risks as boys, men do down the line; boys who are allowed to fail, and according to the aforementioned authors, better for it? Or once again was MSNBC on to something quoting another columnist who said if you’re [a woman] and not insecure you’re just not paying attention going on to point out the tone of the equal pay for equal work debate framed as women are undeserving of equal pay; usually based on them having children and that having children decreases their productivity, value, whether they take off 3-5 years to raise that child or are less present at work, no longer putting in long hours, needing to take sick days to care for said children. Not leaving out political pundits [cough] Bill O’Reilly, blaming all society’s problems now, in the 21st century, on women who have children out of wedlock. Of course leaving unmentioned how many women left their domestically abusive, cheating, psychotic husbands for the betterment of their children and themselves; the number of, by all appearances, happy husbands who up and walk out or lead double lives with mistresses, marry multiple women oblivious to each other or just how many mass shooters, teens perpetrating violence in their schools grew up in the ideal 2 parent home, are the product of divorce where someone first attempted to “do it right.”  Rather easily countering our researching duo, firstly, looking at the nation’s dropout rate, our national test scores and the prospects available to someone without a college education, hardly anyone can say there is too much success in academia, and saying so frankly only feeds the conservative values rhetoric that would have young girls, in their prime women, back to being barefoot, pregnant and nothing else. Next, ignored in the above clip is that any woman raising their hand to be considered for a promotion had better have 100 percent of the job requirements to a man’s 60 if they want to retain their employment never mind their promotion; women who can’t afford to take exorbitant risks, can’t afford to have a company tank A- because they have too much responsibility riding on it either as primary breadwinner, attempting to pay back student loans, saving to buy a car, a home, handling pregnancy and B- if they ever want to be taken seriously in their field ever from that moment forward. Infinitely increased in likelihood is that women would be ecstatic to take on a promotion, would love to move up to management but can’t owing to they have too many personal obligations at the moment, need stable, concrete hours to take care of their young children, and it happens to more than the vilified single parent below incidentally divorced, not popping out kids out of wedlock with unworthy men, as so routinely characterized by conservative media. Scenarios such as this play out in married, two parent homes all the time where dad has no flexibility in his hours, her increase in pay would not cover the cost of sudden childcare needed, not to mention the upheaval of having a babysitter, going to daycare for the kids involved. When advancement means relocation, he has a good, solid job and you need both incomes to function, the kids are thriving in their existing school, he has better health insurance. Welcome to the dilemma of two working people, working parents in the current age, playing directly into the choices women make or don’t make.

The only failure I had trouble swallowing as a girl, a women wasn’t that someone else got the award, won the contest, got into a certain school, club, program and I didn’t, that boys, men got opportunities I didn’t have access to; it was the utter incompetence, dysfunction of the employment system itself. That I got my degree to garner credibility in my field unable to use it for want of a paragraph’s worth of information owed to me by job placement, career service entities I was involved with under their job descriptions.  Ironically interacting with, mostly women, who were glassy eyed, geriatric, walking office furniture who didn’t have the faintest idea how to help me achieve my most basic goals of getting a job; who, regardless of which sex they were, couldn’t master the concept of the clout of an office and how to use that to their client’s advantage in contacting field specific employers, unwilling to give me the time of day, informing them they had a college student getting X degree hoping to do Y job and asking is there anything besides their degree they need to do to be successful? Job placement agencies who, the most sophisticated job they were capable of facilitating was clerical/office positions answering phones stuffing envelopes, housing a clerical program absent teaching key software and skills required to step from training to actually getting a job. That no matter what I did it was never enough to make it over that hurdle of maybe being considered to actually getting a job, forget in my field, for want of experience I understood I needed, had no qualms about getting, but no one was willing to give. On the whole women struggle with failure in one of two ways, in trying to have it all and feeling like their going mad while doing so, feeling like there must be something wrong with them because their mother did it with such poise, grace, efficiency and they can’t, vowing to have the 20th/21st century women’s dream and balance it better than their mother only to find themselves falling miserably short, or with the feminist movement, with the forward progression of modern times they feel like, are pressured by friends, family, classmates into the idea, because they are women and they can, they must have it all. They must strive for both career and family, engage in this intense juggling act, when only one of those things is what they truly want; when they would be perfectly happy possessing a few friends a rewarding career and perhaps a significant other if not a husband, maybe getting married and not having kids, content to watch your friends raise theirs. Contrastingly the option that gets vilified in the present time, choosing to have a spouse and family before career, take lesser places in the working world in order to not just produce that family but adequately raise and care for it, eliminating the choice the feminist movement was supposed to bring, supposed to represent.                  

Are women by nature, by biology, by upbringing really such failed, unaccomplished negotiators, horrible deal makers; portrayed even in the following video as mousy, blindly taking whatever they can get, or are we back to not seeing the forest for the trees?  Those trees possibly comprised of a stunningly accurate portrait given by Fox News’ Megan Kelly, and panel dissecting Lean In, speaking directly to where said deals are made, the career ascension begins; on the golf course, out for drinks, 2 places women don’t often go, one where women can’t reasonably go. It’s not that women can’t or don’t play golf; it’s that they aren’t going to do their best work lugging a bag of clubs around for 18 holes on a too hot Saturday afternoon after putting in a full workweek when they’re not used to it, are new to the game and it doesn’t at all seem worth it to “bond with the boss.” They may literally not have time, choosing between bonding with upper management and quality time with their husband, bonding to their 3 year old. Pre family obligations, you may choose meeting your boyfriend, fiancé’s parents over optional work retreats; aging parents, family reunions, just taking some me time, recharging your batteries to be that stellar employee come Monday take precedence in front of milling around in apparently unproductive places knowing you could be somewhere else either enjoying yourself or catching up on laundry, buying groceries, writing out bills, walking the dog, keeping your  house/apartment free of breathing diseases. Going out for drinks after work, meeting the bosses for drinks on weekends is fraught with unwanted sigma for women; independent of what it may look like to the male executive, just a work scenario or a chance at an exciting mistress, coworkers, their wife/significant other may interpret it as a move on their loved one, as an unscrupulous move on the boss, perpetuate rumors you got to the top by sleeping your way there. Should you be married yourself, your spouse, your boyfriend, your partner could easily suspect you of an affair, accuse you of wanting to be at work with your boss, your coworker more than you want to be with them, your family, your children whether that is true or not. Conversely leading back to negotiations for a starting salary, pay raise, other benefit on your job, is it bad negotiating skills or no authentic negotiating power demonstrated in the video below; because, when you don’t know what fellow workers around you make, are sworn to keeping your mouth closed about earnings if you want to keep your job, you have no leverage to effectively negotiate anything. When no matter what traits you adopt, how you conduct yourself, typical of male or female, a combination of both, on the subject of negotiation, the people on the other side of the table won’t take you seriously.            

Nor does this supposed imposter syndrome plaguing successful, seemingly confident, no doubt accomplished women currently, only effect the so called fairer sex; men struggle with self-recrimination, not knowing if what they are doing is good enough, they just don’t go writing books about it. Forget we created fake it till you make it advice encouraging people, regardless of gender, to behave like their success role models, the person they envy, pretend they have more, there’s that word again, confidence than they do, that they aren’t worried, nervous about what happens next, that they have more answers than they do, will find more than they are convinced they can. Further maybe these women felt like such unearned imposters because they are. In addition to Sandberg and Huffington’s mirrored backgrounds of opportunity privilege if not direct affluence per se, where Huffington ideally learned the media, newspaper business from her father, attending schools in the UK; she too propelled herself from where she was to where she is by marriage. Her union with Michael Huffington and his later failed political campaign shot her to political commentator stardom painting her the perfect comedy acidic foil to liberals like Al Franken circa1996 election coverage, snowballing into minor acting roles, on a political front, radio shows, a candidate in the California recall election and media wise, of course the Huffington Post; which was acquired by AOL in 2011 naming her editor in chief over an entire media group baring the same name including several AOL properties. AOL who just this year found itself in a public relations nightmare thanks to Tim Armstrong’s blaming scale backs in retirement programs on distressed babies belonging to AOL employees; yet women are wholly and unjustifiably insecure, sure. Sandberg was born to money, exposure to aristocratic, well known people who could get things done; eventually married into more money, connections and maneuverability using her uncanny knack of knowing when to be where and who to align herself with to achieve what unimpressive little she has. These women, excluding the notable exception of Elizabeth Warren, also discussed at length by MSNBC, are not trail blazers, are far from meaningfully charting new territory; instead they are old, tired, bland examples of what we’ve seen too much of already, people who use affluence, wealth, birth lottery and patriarchy to their utmost advantage. Huffington basically went into the family business using the knowledge she’d grown up around, Sandberg used her born into connections to smooze the right people; then embraced patriarchy by latching onto the men who were involved in the places she wanted to go capitalizing on a combination of demureness and wit to get them to take her along for the ride, marrying into yet more connections, affluence and influence, only to preside over Facebook’s disastrous IPO. Even Marissa Mayer, also a defacto part of this group being a young female CEO, garnering her place in history as CEO of Yahoo, hasn’t done anything truly noteworthy there either; unless you count burning through company capital to buy up every tech startup in sight. Worse these were called talent acquisitions after her infamous blanket ban on telecommuting either triggered a mass exodus or she is reviving their previous mistake in creating another bloated infrastructure. Plus while merging, engulfing bringing popular sites like Tumblr, Stamped and Snip it, under Yahoo’s umbrella may have enhanced its cool factor, pleased shareholders and solidified Mayer’s job, there’s nothing innovative about it.      

Returning to Jill Abramson yes her story holds all the markers of she found out how little she was making compared to her coworkers, found out a junior employee was making more, who, surprise, surprise was male, sounded off about it and got herself fired. But is it that the New York Times operates identical to an old boy’s club unaccustomed to women doing so well in the workplace, reaching for the heights of management, forgoing actually getting there then acting like men when they do bear the mantle of leadership, unable to handle strong, formidable women calling the shots, reigniting accusations of them doing the same thing in the 80’s with other women? Is it the “disturbing parallel drawn between things said about her and things attributed to Hilary Clinton when she ran for president, calling both brusque, pushy, difficult, stubborn,” purportedly coded words implying she violated behavior expectations where in a man it would be ignored, celebrated; alarming considering the man tapped to be her replacement has a penchant for putting his fist through walls? Or is it the bad examples women CEO’s have put forth once being put in charge; multitudes were/are surprised Sheryl Sandberg managed to hold on to her job following Facebook’s horrible IPO and subsequent stock drop, not because she was a woman, but because where else would this be allowed to happen and the person in charge remain so? Marissa Mayer banned telecommuting at Yahoo in conjunction with adding a nursery to her office forcing the conversation to inevitably turn to her reproductive organs; Hilary Clinton’s bid for president and accompanying criticism only reprises what was said of domestic, home décor queen Martha Stewart years before, echoes unpleasant realities about women in management depicted in books such as The Devil Wears Prada generated from the partially true experiences of some women on their first jobs working under  negatively stereotypical women in leadership positions. Could it be equally plausible Abramson was paid less because her predecessor’s salary was needlessly inflated, she was paid less than the junior person because she was indeed a bad manager; however, they wanted to avoid exactly where they ended up, where firing her, demoting her turns it into a conversation about her ovaries, her gender not her lacking performance. But when she found out about the pay discrepancy and began raising hell, it was the last straw; they had to let her go? Addressing the incredulousness sensed by many when Abramson brought lawyers into it, it’s no different than the how dare you reaction had by almost every person nationally when a teenager dared sue her parents for her existing college fund; right or wrong there it is and it may have nothing to do with gender and more to do with approach, how fast she was willing to use the threat of litigation. Evoking thoughts is there an expected stack of personality, character traits only for men, only for women and when women try to take a page from men they suffer a huge backlash, or is it aptly compared to the guy at the bar, coming on too strong, trying too hard, creepily not taking no for an answer who is an unforgettable turnoff?  The less covered case involving a woman in academia asking for maternity leave and a slight raise who found her job offer abruptly rescinded was, in all probability, caused by them extending said offer only for her to come back to them stating she’s pregnant, asking chiefly for maternity leave plus the raise and them saying; oh no, we need someone who can work now, fill the position now, not be here anywhere from 1-6 months then disappear for 6 weeks. Non-progressives, non- believers in the war on women are sadly right about something else; Abramson will be able to parlay her firing into multitudes of job offers from people who will look at this, say you don’t want her because she’s a woman, we’ll take her sans competence questions, sans a unvarnished performance evaluation. There is a glass cliff and women particularly are shoving themselves off of it due to poor planning, poor approaches and terrifying workplace demeanors; you don’t have to bring your inner bitch, if you are a woman, to work your inner tyrant, if you are a man, in order to lead, to be an effective boss, an effective manager. A problem for all managers, bosses, leaders, independent of sex, they have no idea, interest in how to command respect vs. demand it, be authoritative, in charge without barking, demeaning and degrading workers, whom there aren’t an endless supply of.

In short there is no crisis of confidence among women; if anything there seems to be a crisis of reality among everyone else, especially writers of the books mentioned here, by people who seem to have no accurate idea what women are facing, the why behind what women are actually thinking. Millennials are by nature risk averse essentially learning from their predecessors’ missteps, mistakes and the recession has taught everyone else to be; no longer will they jump into things with both feet for reasonable fear of having their legs, knees cut out from under them. Whether testosterone affects male brains in a way not done by Estrogen for women, making them more prone to risk taking, aggression, tactics favored in business, is irrelevant in the looming shadow of practicality. The need for a car outweighing the need to be worried about who’s trying to screw you over at the dealership, the need for an operational vehicle outweighing the need to be highly concerned about being taken by your mechanic because you have 2 X chromosomes; the need for the standard, whatever you can get raise, coming with your elevated position, your need to keep your job outweighing the compulsion to find out what everyone around me makes and demand the same. To say nothing of, maybe, just maybe not wanting everything in life to be a continuous negotiation, a constant haggling session over every detail of one’s life because you happened to be born a girl. Severely downplayed is what women really want from life, from work, the core authentic why women obtain 57% of bachelor’s degrees yet only occupy 18% of seats in congress and just under 17% of board seats at the largest companies; here’s a hint, they don’t want it. Aside from people’s view of Wall Street post 2008, people’s attitude regarding corporate America still today, people’s opinions on government dysfunction and the brokenness of Washington, the current crop of college graduates have wholly different goals than anything that will lead them to a boardroom; beyond fears of simply being employed, handling student debt, their primary objective is to help people, to give back. Women, absent age demographic, are much more likely to secure funding for a not for profit, a community center, project to help wounded veterans, animals, troubled kids than your average business; apart from the younger generation getting a BS in nursing, applying for home health aide, CNA certifications, attending schooling for dental assistants, dental hygienists for the job security that is the booming healthcare business, they do it because they enjoy, they thrive on social interaction, they found a place to use their chatty nature that always got in trouble for talking in class. Short and to the point, not every woman wants to be like a man; not every woman suffers from this mythical penis envy.