Given that so few women hold positions of power, when a high-profile woman like Carol Bartz loses her role as CEO of a huge company, thoughts of sexism creep into the conversation. "It's global 'Scapegoat your failure on a woman' day," the Zero Hedge twitter feed lamented. Did she deserve to get canned, or did her gender have something to do with it? The company hasn't fared well under Bartz: the stock hasn't recovered and the board has hired consultants to strategize, so maybe Bartz's ousting had nothing to do with her extra x-chromosome. But even though the company had its issues, there's something that doesn't sit well about this whole Bartz thing, particularly the conversation surrounding her tenure and her departure.
The main argument against the claims of sexism is that Bartz didn't help the company get out of its slump, and thus she deserved the boot. Many argue that it's hard to make a case for keeping her based on her performance. "Her performance has been decidedly bumpy and mostly downhill," explains AllThingsD's Kara Swisher. And, "the stock has been comatose," as Forbes's Jeff Bercovici points out. But there are counterarguments here, too. Bartz didn't actually do that badly, as The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal explains.
People don't tend to like Carol Bartz, but let's be honest: she milked money from a dying cash cow, exactly like she was supposed to. ... In the ten quarters before Carol Bartz got to Yahoo, the company's net income totaled $1.5 billion. In the ten quarters of her tenure, that number rose to $2.3 billion. That's a 52 percent increase in rough economic conditions and while Yahoo's revenue was falling under competitive pressure from Google and Facebook (among others). Bartz may have never quite figured out what Yahoo was and may have capitulated on its search business, but she made money for the people who hired her.
In other words, Bartz did exactly the job Yahoo hired her to do--people just didn't like the way she did it. That's where the sexism comes in.