I have noted the crappy journalism of Gannett, specifically USAToday, previously, and here’s another example:
Matt Krantz, USA TODAY 3:24 p.m. EDT May 1, 2016
Yahoo (YHOO) just disclosed the size of its executive pay packages and Marissa Mayer stands to make millions coming or going.
The CEO of the embattled online news site, currently trying to sell itself, is entitled to severance benefits valued at $54.9 million in case she is terminated without cause, according to a regulatory filing after the market closed Friday. The potential payout would also be triggered by a “change of control,” which includes the sale of the company, according to the filing.
Marissa Mayer, Chief Executive Officer at Yahoo
Mayer’s potential payout includes cash severance of $3 million, $26,324 to continue her health benefits, $15,000 for outplacement, and — if that’s enough — nearly $52 million worth of accelerated restricted stock and options.
But wait. That’s just what Mayer gets if she leaves. Mayer was already paid $36 million in 2015 as her regular annual compensation. That total pay package was down nearly 15% from the prior year, but is still well above the median of roughly $12 million paid by executives in the Standard & Poor’s 500. Mayer was paid $42.1 million in 2014, making her the most highly paid female CEO in the S&P 500.
Meanwhile, Yahoo shareholders continue to suffer. The value of Yahoo’s stock lost roughly a third of its value last year. Shares closed Friday at $36.60. And there’s a reason the stock is headed in the wrong direction. Yahoo went from making $7.5 billion in 2014 to losing $4.4 billion in 2015.
There’s more at the original. But look at the headline again: “Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer gets $55M to leave.” If you just looked at the headline, and didn’t read the story, you would (probably) think that Mrs Mayer had been fired, and that she had been given a $55 million “golden parachute.” If you do read the story, you see that that is Mrs Mayer’s contractually defined severance package if she is fired. If you read the whole story, it is very obvious that the author has a harshly negative opinion of Yahoo in general, stating that the company is virtually worthless outside of a couple of external acquisitions that it doesn’t even control. I will not dispute that assessment, but the entire article reeks of the author’s biases.
I spotted that article when a friend put it on Facebook, but Facebook’s programming added a few sort-of related articles, and I found this one interesting:
BY Marianne Cooper | September 22, 2015 at 5:00 PM EDT
Earlier this month, Ellen Pao announced that she was dropping the appeal of her legal case for gender discrimination and retaliation against the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins.
Observers have noted that Pao’s story brings to life some of the obstacles women can face in the workplace, especially when in leadership roles. For example, many have characterized Pao’s resignation from Reddit as an instance of the “glass cliff.”
Discovered by psychology professors Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam, the glass cliff is a phenomenon in which women are more likely to be put into leadership roles under risky and precarious circumstances. By taking the helm during difficult times, their odds of failure are often higher.
Over the last 10 years, research in a variety of contexts has repeatedly documented the glass cliff.
A study of the 2005 general election in the UK found that in the Conservative party, men were selected to contest seats that were easier to win, while women were selected to contest seats that were unwinnable. Furthermore, an analysis of CEO transitions among Fortune 500 companies over a 15-year period found that white women, and women and men of color were more likely than white men to get promoted to CEO when firms were performing weakly. Another study found that when asked, law students were more likely to assign a problematic legal case to a female attorney than a male attorney.
What this research highlights is that not only do women get fewer leadership opportunities than men, but they also often get different kinds of opportunities. But why?
First, some evidence suggests that the selection of a woman can signal a change in direction, especially when a company has a history of all male leaders. For under-performing companies, selecting a woman can show that a company is implementing the kind of change that is sorely needed.
Second, research indicates that we believe men possess qualities that are more fit with running successful companies, while women possess qualities that can make them more suitable in difficult situations. When asked to describe managers in successful companies, people tended to list more stereotypical masculine qualities (decisive, forceful).
But when asked how desirable different characteristics were for managers of unsuccessful companies, the number of stereotypical female qualities (intuitive, understanding) outweighed the number of masculine ones.
These kinds of findings have led some to conclude that when we think crisis — we think female.
In times of crisis, more stereotypical feminine qualities, like being collaborative or good with people, are often seen as particularly important. Thus, it may be that women are thought to be more suitable in certain types of crisis situations, since they are believed to possess these kinds of social qualities more so than men.
In fact, research shows that feminine traits are considered to be especially important when a leader is expected to manage people, work behind the scenes to manage a crisis and “act as a scapegoat.”
The glass cliff-phenomenon results in negative consequences all around. For individual women leaders, being put in command when the odds of success are low can set them up to fail. Despite inheriting the problems, women in glass-cliff positions are seen to be fully responsible for the bad state of affairs. After becoming synonymous with a failure, career advancement can be undermined.
There’s more at the original.
I do wonder if there might be some sample-size problems with the study, but I can sort-of see where the results make sense. When looking for a new CEO, companies don’t (usually) say, “OK, we want a woman, ’cause this place is going into the toilet.” Companies will often cast a fairly wide net in such searches, but it is also possible that the men being considered have more secure positions already, and are waiting for/ hoping for a better opportunity to arise. The women considered, already a minority in the corner offices of major corporations, might see the CEO slot as one which they simply cannot pass up.
In the end, CEOs will be judged by their companies’ performances, and that’s the way it should be. Perhaps women have been taking the reins in situations which were more challenging, and, if so, I say, good for them! A good CEO is not the kind of person who shies away from challenges.
However, a note on the referenced study, Think Crisis–Think Female: The Glass Cliff and Contextual Variation in the Think Manager–Think Male Stereotype.
Research into the TMTM (Think Manager-Think Male) phenomenon has tended to focus on describing the content of people’s beliefs about men, women, and leaders. However, there is some evidence that such stereotypes may be slowly changing over time (e.g., Duehr & Bono, 2006; Eagly & Sczesny, 2009). With the increase in the popularity of transformational leadership (e.g., Bass, 1985), there has been a recognition of the effectiveness of traditionally feminine traits, giving rise to a so-called “leadership advantage” for women (Eagly & Carli, 2003; but see also Vecchio, 2002, 2003). There is also evidence that with women’s increased participation in the workforce, the view of women is changing— especially amongst women themselves (Duehr & Bono, 2006). In line with these ideas, while the TMTM phenomenon is seen to be remarkably durable (Deal & Stevenson, 1998; Heilman, Block, & Martell, 1995; Powell, Butterfield, & Parent, 2002; Schein, 2001; Sczesny, Bosak, Neff, & Schyns, 2004), there is some evidence that the effect is attenuating over time, again, especially for women (Brenner, Tomkiewicz, & Schein, 1989; Eagly & Sczesny, 2009; Schein, Mueller, & Jacobson, 1989).
Other than to note that attitudes may be changing over time, from a 2009 study, I am seeing citations that are all ten years or more older. Women now make up the majority of college students, and the National Center for Education Statistics noted that “Within each racial/ethnic group, women earned the majority of degrees at all levels in 2009–10.” In 2009-10, women of all races/ethnic groups earned 62.6% of all master’s degrees conferred, up from 60.0% ten years previously . . . and master’s degrees are the ones which can lead to the executive suite. This will eventually mean more women in the executive suite, because more women are doing the necessary preparation work to get there. There is almost certainly some skewing effect caused by the dominance of women in education, given that most school systems now place a premium on earning a master’s, but women are clearly pursuing higher education at greater rates than men.
And I have no problem with that at all: I absolutely support the right of people to pursue their goals, without any regard to race or sex. Whether Mrs Mayer succeeds or fails at Yahoo is not my concern, and the fact that she is a woman makes no difference in that. To me, Mrs Mayer is a CEO who happens to be a woman, not a woman CEO.