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Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Selena Rezvani

Selena Rezvani

Selena Rezvani is author of the new book, The Next Generation of Women Leaders: What You Need to Lead but Won't Learn in Business School and co-president of Women's Roadmap. Follow her on Twitter at @NextGenWomen.

TV perpetuates old boys club

Where are all the women in media? Major publications have been asking this question of late, probing at the low number of female sources and experts in the news. It's been shown that while women represent the majority workforce and university degree holders, their presence in the news reached only 24 percent in 2010. The Global Media Monitoring Project, which reported the statistic, noted that "...the figure itself is a reminder that in the 'mirror of the world' depicted by the news media, the faces seen and the voices heard remain overwhelmingly those of men." Similarly, the Women's Media Center reports that on Sunday morning political talk shows (NBC's Meet the Press, ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation and Fox Broadcasting's Fox News Sunday), male guests outnumber female guests four-to-one.

In a realm where women are welcomed as entertainment, it seems being female and an authority still makes people uncomfortable. But even in Hollywood, women are only welcome for so long. In an essay published in the The New Yorker by actress and producer Tina Fey, the working mom admits to feeling that she's in her "last five minutes" of being famous. She notes, "I know older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they're all 'crazy.' I have a suspicion--and hear me out, because this is a rough one--that the definition of 'crazy' in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to [expletive] her anymore." While her work wins repeated awards and is hugely popular, Fey's standing and major sway as a female comedian is a rarity in Hollywood.

Juxtaposed with the dearth of women in top media ranks is an obvious abundance of men and, at times, a very low standard. There seems to be an awfully low bar (some would argue even a reward system) for some noteworthy men who happen to behave badly. At the same time as we're inundated with articles about women's minimal voice in media, we're also observing a powerful "boys will be boys" message. In television alone, we find an array of "influencers" who don't necessarily deserve the platform.
Take Eliot Spitzer. How has Spitzer been spurned as a disgraced governor who participated in a prostitution ring? He's hasn't been; rather he's been compensated with coveted columns, teaching gigs and a primetime television program on CNN, "Parker Spitzer". What's more, when ratings for his television show were less than expected, it's Spitzer's Pulitzer Prize -winning, female co-host who was rumored to be the reason for the show's anemic following. Numerous men and women called foul at CNN's judgment in giving Spitzer the post, with Walter Shapiro of PoliticsDaily.com writing, "Eliot Spitzer on CNN -- Can Bernie Madoff Be Far Behind?"

You can find our propensity to look the other way all around us. Whether seeing scandal-ridden Rod Blagojevich receiving a six-figure book advance and working as a spokesperson, actors who can't stay above the law despite million-dollar weekly paychecks, or a disgraced, formerly top-tier journalist writing cover stories--is the media lens we see through not distorted?

Just last week I happened to catch Saturday Night Live (SNL), a show that's far from news but still a mighty cultural influencer. SNL producers featured musical guest Chris Brown, who in 2009 admitted to and was convicted of felony assault charges perpetrated against his girlfriend, Rihanna. To say I was disturbed by SNL putting Brown on a literal pedestal is an understatement, but it appears I wasn't the only one. A flurry of angry articles and tweets ensued with one Twitter user criticizing, "...Chris Brown, all the candles in the world aren't going to make us forget that you like to beat up ladies." TV.com's Seth Abramovitch also blasted SNL's misstep, saying, "Where is the outrage? Where are the protests? Where are the women's groups? Where are the dropped sponsors?"

We certainly haven't seen the last of bad boys, disgraced public servants and those with generally poor judgment. But for many gents considered naughty, they will keep on working. They will keep their voices. They will keep their impact. And right now, that's a luxury that many well-behaving women don't have.

By Selena Rezvani

 |  February 25, 2011; 9:04 AM ET
Category:  Women in Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Did you watch the show? Parker is a writer, not a TV person. Why not just pick another random woman and put her on TV.

Posted by: Delongl | March 3, 2011 12:34 AM
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Selena you sound green with envy.

Posted by: torope | March 2, 2011 10:40 AM
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Everything is white male dominated. It's a shame in this day and age that not much has changed.

Posted by: rlj1 | March 1, 2011 8:39 PM
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Old news. Pun intended. Susan J. Douglas has been writing about this for a decade+. Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female With The Mass Media; The Rise of Enlightened Sexism; etc...

Posted by: streetnoise | March 1, 2011 3:21 PM
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I just spent 10 minutes writing a post that will not be seen. I used one word in it, because I knew that the comment would given by liberals concerning these anchors. The Post censored my article. I use the word sl_t one time. I knew the writers would call these anchors _luts. So I put s_ut in the article to beat them to the punch. Sl_ts is not a curse word and should not be used in everyday conversation, but if one group of people will use it to describe another group of people, then the news should report it. Fox has a monopoly on beautiful, intelligent, rational women. Acll them names, but I dare you to debate them, you will lose for two reasons. One is they are smart, two is you are wrong.

Posted by: 1bmffwb | March 1, 2011 3:01 PM
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The Washington Post is a hack job always. Never an honest unbiased article. Should lose its power of the press privilege. No news, just opinion in every section of the paper.

Posted by: 1bmffwb | March 1, 2011 2:54 PM
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Selena, I hope you aren't surprised or expect anything to change anytime soon. TV is TV and in TV's context, women ARE entertainment. It's still the way it is.

Posted by: therev1 | February 28, 2011 9:37 PM
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Bet you are incorrect about fox,,definatly as to the blonde contingent.Didnt Browns girlfriend do a recent song that she rather liked getting knocked around.

Posted by: schmidt1 | February 25, 2011 8:30 PM
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