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 2:19 PM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
As a woman whose parents had cancer, I have quite a few things to say about dying with dignity.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
David Gergen says he'll have a special eye on a few particular races in Tuesday's midterms that may tell us about our long-term future.
updated 10:52 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
What's behind the uptick in clown sightings? And why the fascination with them? It could be about the economy.
updated 9:01 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
Midterm elections don't usually have the same excitement as presidential elections. That should change, writes Sally Kohn.
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
updated 2:32 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
updated 5:03 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
updated 5:25 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
updated 8:32 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT