Life and death as a first female Editor

I left the role of Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald in 2012 and many people since then have asked me to speak about being a “female first” and on women and leadership. In 2014, I was prompted to write an essay for The Guardian after a week in which the first female editors of The New York Times and Le Monde were pushed out the door.

Media is a tough world. It’s tough on executives who work in it and manage the 24/7 demands of news. It is especially tough on women who want to work their way up the greasy pole of management.

Getting to the top, becoming the first female leader of a venerable news media institution, does not come with any soft landings. You have to be game to take it on, for all the personal flak which will come your way.

And no one ever needs to tell you to lean in, because there’s no other way to do it.

Taking on the job of being a “first woman” in any industry, whether it’s politics, the corporate world or government, means creating from scratch a leadership style that is as effective as that of the men who have gone before – but more so. It’s like Ginger Rogers’ famous line about doing everything Fred Astaire did but backwards, and in heels.

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