Progressive Women’s Voices — Changing the Conversation

The Women’s Media Center is putting out a call for women to join our Progressive Women’s Voices program. The deadline is December 15th. For more information, or to apply, click here.

WMC President, Carol Jenkins, published the following commentary in The Huffington Post this week touching on the challenges of diversity in today’s media environment and how the Progressive Women’s Voices program is addressing them:

Not Enough Cracks In The Media’s Glass Ceiling
By Carol Jenkins, Women’s Media Center
from The Huffington Post

For those of us who are working for the increased inclusion of women in the media, the weekend’s developments on NBC’s Meet the Press and CNN’s Late Edition are troubling. Our complaint is not that either announced heir is incompetent: David Gregory at MTP and John King at LE are both solid reporters. But in two cases, cable networks had the opportunity to choose a woman and/or a person of color–and opted not to. The result is that Sunday, where issues of the week are determined, and policy influenced, remains the most segregated hours of television. All shows are hosted by white men, albeit now of a new generation.

The passing of the torch was expected at Meet the Press. Tom Brokaw was an acknowledged placeholder during the election season, post the untimely death of host Tim Russert. The Women’s Media Center, in private meetings at the network, and by supporting campaigns like Margot Friedman’s Don’t Let NBC Dis Women urged NBC to look seriously to women and/or people of color for the moderating roles for candidates. The surprise Late Edition change–replacing Wolf Blitzer with the younger John King, was no doubt a peremptory strike: to both mute Gregory’s much awaited announcement, and capitalize on the "new face" energy that ensues.

What can we do now? Keep the pressure on. Rachel Maddow’s wild success as host of her own show on MSNBC has made a lie of the insider talk that women just can’t pull in the ratings. Keep an eye on Chris Matthews’ anchor chair as he reportedly flirts with running for the Senate from Pennsylvania. If it’s true, he should resign from MSNBC right now–and a woman and/or person of color should be hired immediately.

And we have to be even more vigilant now about the guests who are invited to analyze the world for us: are they diverse? Do they include women who express the progressive point of view? The networks have found an interesting approach to "central casting" by hiring articulate and attractive women of color–who are conservative.

The Women’s Media Center created our Progressive Women’s Voices program to make sure the networks didn’t have the excuse that they can’t find women experts, ready and capable to engage in the important conversations. This year we trained and pitched 33 women–heads of organizations working in immigration, national security, the economy, race relations–and writer activists with platforms in print, and online. Those 33 women got more than 1200 media hits, including the major networks and publications. You can read one of our graduates, Courtney M. Martin, in The American Prospect, talking about the disconnect she feels -while a President-elect is assembling a diverse cabinet, women and people of color are missing in the analysis.

We are about to start our next class, and welcome women everywhere to apply. We must make sure that people who explain our world to us look like us and reflect the diversity of our country. The days of segregated television must come to an end.

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  • Katie

    “We must make sure that people who explain our world to us look like us and reflect the diversity of our country. The days of segregated television must come to an end.”

    I completely agree. Remember how everyone treated Gwen Ifill, though? Any woman who fills a top spot in the media or any other “man’s world” job will be subject to outrageous criticism and judgment for superficial reasons. We all know this to be true. My point, however, is that the person to fill this position must be prepared to deal with it and must be strong enough to do her job effectively without letting outside pressures affect her. Initially it’s going to be tough to find the right candidates for these positions and that’s why the up-and-comers need as much help and support as they can get, until we change overall attitudes and expectations. It’s a long, difficult, necessary process.

    I do think, however, that times are a-changin’ — young women of my generation want and feel the need for change like this, and are ready to make it happen. And the Internet is making it all the more possible, giving voice and authority to a diversity of people who can choose how to represent themselves and how to express what they believe.

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  • I am grateful for the information.

  • I’d love to join in Feb 2 if online but cannot find how to register.

  • love to blog with you. sandyo

  • Liz N.

    We need to have women’s voices heard, and it’s truly a disappointment that time and time again the baton is passed from one white male to another.

    And I agree with Katie — hopefully this is an issue we can address at the conference, since the blogosphere/Internet is not only a great way to get women’s voices out there, but it is also a medium that the mainstream media is taking notice of more and more.

    Just as an FYI, the National Organization for Women also has a Women’s In Media Fact Sheet ( that just goes to show the gender gap in all facets of the mainstream media.