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Remarks Of
Commissioner Susan Ness
Before the
Federal Communications Commission's
Celebration of Women's History Month
Washington, D.C.

March 25, 1998

(as prepared for delivery)

It is truly a pleasure to be here today.

I would like to thank the Office of Workplace Diversity for putting together this important celebration for Women's History Month.

I stress important, because I know from first hand experience just how important this type of event is for women in communications.

My very first visit to the Commission was at a seminar organized by former Commissioner Mimi Dawson for women and minorities. The goal of the seminar was to educate women and minorities on financing broadcast station acquisitions.

I was a communications banker at the time, and was invited to speak on the panel. [I had just returned to work after a six week maternity leave to give birth to my daughter -- but that's another story.]

What I realized then still holds true today: this type of event is an important vehicle by which the Commission can reach out and encourage more women to become involved in the communications industry.

There are many smart, dedicated, and entrepreneurial women working at all levels in the communications industry today. Their contribution is significant and should be applauded. However, there is still more to be done.

Although we all have been enriched by the leadership of some truly extraordinary women in network programming and station management, their numbers are meager indeed. I can't tell you how many conference plenary sessions I have watched -- that feature only men.

The number of women owning broadcast stations or cable systems is paltry. We don't even keep the statistics to measure how much we have progressed -- or regressed. But I bet the percentage of ownership is in the single digits.

And, given the trends toward consolidation of ownership in cable and broadcast -- it becomes increasingly difficult for women and minority entrepreneurs to gain an ownership toe-hold. The barriers to entry are becoming more formidable. And I believe we as a nation stand to lose as a result.

But we can do something about it. I want to see more women and minorities advance to senior management positions and become owners of stations.

The mega-sized communications companies -- which lead in consolidation -- should lead in training women and minorities to afford opportunities to move up the corporate ladder. With so many stations, one can have a farm team -- enabling entrepreneurs to develop their management skills at smaller stations and to move up when they are ready.

And there should be a way to measure that progress on a composite basis.

For now, however, there is much to celebrate. For 20 years, the Commission has sponsored programs such as this one to celebrate contributions made by women to our history, society, and the communications industry. I commend these important efforts, and strongly encourage everyone here to take the spirit of this event with them and into the community as they leave the Commission today.

And who knows -- you might even return in a leadership role that you would never have anticipated.