Skip to main content

Obama, put a woman in charge of FCC

By Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem, Special to CNN
updated 11:32 AM EST, Fri January 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jane Fonda, Glora Steinem, Robin Morgan: Obama short on women appointees
  • They say women helped him win, he must show he sees them as leaders, not just voters
  • They say media companies shape attitudes. He should name women to head FCC, FTC
  • Writers: Media is run largely by men. Time to close the gender gap in U.S. media leadership

Editor's note: Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem are the co-founders of the Women's Media Center.

(CNN) -- First, the good news. News organizations -- including CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Bloomberg -- are asking: Where are the women? They've noticed that President Obama's nominees for his national security team and Cabinet, including Secretary of State, Defense, Treasury, and Director of the CIA, have excluded the talent of potential female appointees.

As co-founders of the Women's Media Center, whose purpose is to make women more visible and powerful in the media, we want to say thank you for noticing.

Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda
Robin Morgan
Robin Morgan
Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem

Now, the bad news. President Obama isn't answering. He wouldn't have been re-elected without 55 percent of the women's vote, something he earned by representing women's majority views on issues, yet now he seems to be ignoring women's ability to be not only voters, but leaders.

Fortunately, there are still possibilities. A second-term President Obama still has time to demonstrate his commitment to equality in a different but equally important area of the federal government, the agencies that have oversight of the media and telecom industries.

Media companies have some of the most powerful resources at their disposal in shaping attitudes and culture. But media culture, from our TV shows to advertising, is often deeply sexist and normalizes roles that limit everyone. There is a powerful "bully pulpit" effect to having women at the head of these agencies.

Four important agencies regulating media include the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division and the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration. One slot has already been filled by a man. On January 3, William J. Baer was sworn in as assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Erin Burnett: White men to fill Obama's cabinet

That could leave three. We say "could" because it's not yet 100% clear that the heads of the FTC or FCC will be stepping down, though top appointees do shift around in a president's second term. For instance, there has already been speculation that Lawrence E. Strickling, assistant secretary for communications and information, which manages the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, is in the running for FCC chair. Why not an equally logical woman's name?

Karen Kornbluh, who has just returned from serving as U.S. ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, was one of six women called qualified by the National Journal. Others named as possible FCC chairs were FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, Clinton administration FCC executives Susan Ness and Cathy Sandoval and Obama adviser and communications expert Susan Crawford.

Obama's Cabinet shaping up to be a boys club

Obama Cabinet possibilities
White men to fill Obama's Cabinet

We're glad to say the FCC has had black chairmen. William Kennard, for example, made a top priority of closing the digital divide for African-Americans and for Americans with disabilities. It's unfortunate that there have not been more, though we live in a diverse country in which white Americans are about to become the minority. Never in the 80 years of the FCC has a woman of any race or group been its chair, though women have been the nation's majority for a long time.

Then there's the Federal Trade Commission, which has broad oversight over everything from price fixing at the gas pump to whether Google is a monopoly. It includes the Bureau of Consumer Protection, which monitors false and deceptive advertising. Women still have most of the purchasing power in households. According to GfK MRI's Spring 2011 Survey of the American Consumer, 75% of women are the primary shoppers for all household products. Women are more likely to have the expertise for such decisions in the interest of consumers and also to be affected by those decisions.

As we step into 2013, America's media are still largely run by men. Women hold only 6% of all TV and radio station licenses. It's long past the time to close the gender gap in our nation's leadership and in the media and telecom industries' leadership especially, where in 2011 only 28.4% of TV news directors were women, according to the Women's Media Center's 2012 Status of Women in the U.S. Media report.

We thought President Obama wanted women in his inner circle. Right now, the makeup of that inner circle looks nothing like the country.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:50 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT