I love men. My Dad is my forever hero, I have a supportive husband, three amazing brothers, and I am surrounded by incredible colleagues, friends and relatives who are my biggest professional advocates -- I would even call them "feminists" in their view of women's empowerment. But we still have a problem. For all of the progress women have been making in our professional and personal lives, the birth control debate over the past week highlighted the still-unequal voice that women have on the issues -- even those that relate to their own health and well being.
As I was watching my regular news (the Daily Show and Colbert Report), Jon Stewart highlighted a clip from the Fox broadcast of Hannity, featuring an all-male forum in stadium seating discussing the Administration's birth control rule. (I was on the treadmill at the time and almost fell off.) The focus group consisted of 20 "diverse" men being interviewed by the male Sean Hannity. Fast-forward one day to a House Oversight Committee hearing where, yet again, not a single woman was in the room to testify alongside the five male witnesses.
Now, in "politics as usual," this is sadly not an unusual sight. But as I myself sat on Fox Business Channel talking with three conservative men in a debate on the same topic, it suddenly struck me that the entire conversation was more than a little bizarre. It felt like a modern day episode of Mad Men, with a room full of male ad execs discussing how to sell a pair of panty hose. I had these same men trying to argue with me about a medication that MY doctor has prescribed as a treatment for polycystic ovaries and infertility. I have to tell you, boys, if you are willing to saddle up in cold stirrups while trying to casually discuss your favorite method of appeasing menstrual cramps, you have earned a place at the table to discuss women's hormones. I am, however, certain that you will never see a panel of women invited to debate vasectomies, prostate issues, or erectile dysfunction with anything approaching the same presumption of authority.
Most places you look, the numbers for female representation are bleak -- particularly in the news media. In the case of Fox Business I was the lone female of the 11 guests invited to talk about the birth control debate. Overall, 65% of the guests appearing on all of the cable networks to discuss this issue were men. But, before my red-headed temper takes over, I'll offer a perfectly logical explanation as to why there are so few women talking -- because when men make the editorial decisions, they dominate the conversation. According to a recent report by the Women's Media Center, women hold only 28.4% of news director positions. In radio, it's a mere 18.1% of news directors -- and of the "Heavy Hundred" top radio personalities, only 13 are women. So, gentlemen, don't stop opening doors... just don't forget the doors to the newsroom and the boardroom.