The way I see it is that the ESV, like the RSV and the NRSV, has maintained the general style of the King James Bible which is still familiar to and respected by many. Although the ESV has the style of the KJB, it does not communicate gender in an accurate manner. If someone truly wants a Bible in that tradition, I would heartily recommend the NRSV.
However, I am aware that many people would rather have a Bible that is more closely associated with the evangelical community than the NRSV, and the NIV certainly is. So the NIV 2011 is really a perfect choice at this time.
Here are some passages where there is a significant difference in the way gender is treated in the ESV and the NIV2011.
1 Tim. 2:12
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. ESVThere are three different ways that this verse has been translated. First, it occurs as the Latin equivalent of "to be the lord of" in the Vulgate, then "usurp authority" in the KJV and now "exercise authority" in the ESV. There is no reason to think that the word had the positive connotation of "to exercise authority" and so the NIV 2011 is closer to the KJV and to the original meaning than the ESV. Women need to have whatever authority is commensurate with their responsibilities in exactly the same way that men do. Neither men nor women should use authority in a negative way, or domineer over the other.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. NIV 2011
2 Tim. 2:2
and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. ESVThe Greek word in this verse translated as "men" is actually anthropos, which means, quite simply, "people" or "human beings." There is no justification at all for the ESV to use the word "men" in English here. This kind of pattern is repeated throughout the ESV, where a word that means "people" is translated as "men." The ESV hides from the reader that the word in Greek means "people."
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. NIV 2011
1 Tim. 5:8
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. ESVThe Greek word which is translated as "anyone" means what it says - anyone. It does not refer to a male only and in the Greek of this passage, there are no masculine pronouns or masculine indicators of any kind. This verse does not refer to men as the providers in the home, but assigns equal responsibility to both men and women. The NIV2011 avoids the misunderstanding often caused by the masculine pronouns of the ESV.
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. NIV 2011
In addition to this, the Greek word adelphoi was translated in the King James Bible as "brethren." However, in Greek this word applied to the brothers and sisters in one family. In reality the word always has meant "brothers and sisters." This is a more accurate translation of the Greek.
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. ESVThere is no evidence to suggest that Junia was not an apostle. It is better to stick with the historic understanding in both the Latin Vulgate and in the King James Bible, that Junia was an apostle.
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. NIV 2011
May I commend to you the NIV 2011 or the NRSV, and gender inclusive Bibles in general, which do, in fact, reflect the Greek of the original in a better fashion than our traditional Bibles do.