Quick: Name five progressive women who you would consider household names in America today.
Can't do it? Then tell us five progressive women whose voices should be prominent in the national media dialogue, and the Women's Media Center will help put them there.
Some have dismissed last week's CNN/YouTube Republican Debate for failing to provide real insight or clarity into the critical issues faced by our country today. But for me, the democratically-inspired format of citizens speaking through video brought into sharp focus a problem that has been staring us in the face for far too long:
Where on Earth were the women?!
Of the 34 video questions posed on-air to candidates, just six came from women. With a stage of all white, male candidates, the overwhelming number of questions aired came from white, male voters. I haven't seen a full analysis yet of the more than 3,500 videos submitted (though CNN producer David Bohrman told The Caucus that the pool was less diverse than he would have liked) but the final tally likely illustrates the dual problem faced by women in the media: too few women are actively seeking a voice in the national media, while (more importantly) those who do are all too often passed by in favor of their male counterparts.
Case in point: Sunday talk shows are dominated by men as hosts and as guests (Source: The White House Project), female news directors manage only a quarter of TV newsrooms (Source: The Nation), and only 10-15 percent of radio programmers and managers are women (source: Radio MIW). In fact, women hold only three percent of what are considered to be "clout" positions in media, publishing, and entertainment (Source: Annenberg Public Policy Center).
Does this mean that women are not engaged? Absolutely not. Catherine Morgan at Informed Voters is doing a superb job in countering that notion, cataloguing more than 250 active, informed women political bloggers. The fact is, women make up more than half of all bloggers, a majority of journalism and mass communications students (see Women in Mass Communication, Creedon & Cramer, 2007), and more than 50 percent of this country. We're not a minority, nor a special interest, no matter what the male news executives would have us believe.
And yet women's voices remain absent in the national debate, while a preponderance of male conservative voices has skewed the national conversation. When women are not able to present and discuss their own lives in meaningful ways this discourages - and even disenfranchises - all women.
That's why the Women's Media Center has created Progressive Women's Voices, a new program to change the conversation and ensure that all of our voices are heard. Through this program, the Women's Media Center will train, brief and support a new group of progressive women whose stories... whose stories and expertise and critically missing from the national debate. This is not just a training program - it is a stepping stone to changing the conversation and the view of the world as presented in the media.
With so few women decision makers, journalists covering the 2004 election were more than twice as likely to turn to a male source than to a woman(Source: Project for Excellence in Journalism). In turn, thirty-five million eligible women did not vote in the last presidential election, including more than twenty million unmarried women.
We're seeking participants who represent diverse backgrounds, with experience and knowledge of specific subject areas and with strong communication skills which we will help to further develop. Full program details are available here.
We need your help now - to identify these women and give them a chance to receive the training and support they deserve.
So tell us: Who are the great women out there whose voices deserve to be heard, but who are not yet a part of the national dialogue? Leave your suggestions here, and we'll make sure that the program information gets in their hands.
And if you're reading this and think that you may be that woman, then let us know. Whether your expertise is war or peace, leadership, climate change, health care, or technology, chances are you follow the news, and realize that progressive women's voices, like yours, are missing. Don't let your voice be silent. Let's change the conversation together.