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Speech: Women in Media: Why so few at the Top?

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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

For Immediate Release   August 29, 2000

FCC Commissioner Susan Ness Highlights Women’s Initiatives
in Speech before American Women in Radio and Television

Los Angeles, August 29-- In a speech before the American Women in Radio and Television yesterday, FCC Commissioner Susan Ness described the lack of women in senior executive positions throughout the communications industries and offered suggestions for ways to increase the presence of women in corporate leadership positions.

Citing recent Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Mildred Jeffrey an example of a highly achieved woman who is not widely known, Commissioner Ness stated, “ that lack of name recognition applies to many women who have risen to the top of their professions. They are woefully few in number; they rarely are featured as keynote speakers at trade association meetings; and they rarely leap to the lips of those seeking CEO’s to run major companies.”

Commissioner Ness then cited evidence of the lack of women with senior positions in the communications industry. A recent article in Broadcasting & Cable profiled the top 25 media conglomerates, none of which is headed by a woman, she said. While women represent 46 percent of the workforce, according to Dean Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania, they represent only 5% of the most senior communications executives, and hold only 9% of media company board seats. Commissioner Ness pointed out that women “fared no better” in the high technology industries. “It’s hard to believe that it is three decades after the resurgence of the women’s movement,” she commented.

“That’s the bad news,” said Ness. “The good news is that women are finally waking up to these realities and are doing something about it.” Pointing to the efforts of a group of women leaders that she recently convened, Commissioner Ness said that women need to build a support network. “If it is lonely at the top, it is even more so for female CEOs,” she said. The women leaders found that corporate recruiters want lists of women executives and that women CEOs can be mentors to other women. “Like flowers after a desert rainfall, efforts have blossomed on many fronts to reverse the paucity of women at the helm,” she said.

Commissioner Ness said that there is “plenty” to do to “increase the number of women at the top.” She implored her audience to ensure that women’s names are mentioned for senior positions; let trade associations know that women should be on their boards and keynoting their conventions; support women networking; and let the media know “how bad the numbers are.”

“We are in an era of remarkable change. But only with the support of each and every one of us – women helping women – will we all succeed.”

For further information, contact David Goodfriend, 202-418-2106.

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