I just finished watching all three presidential debates and witnessed, firsthand, a unique version of what I could think of no other name for but a “moderator Oreo” – two vanilla outside shells (Jim Lehrer, Bob Schieffer) with a rich, colorful middle (Candy Crowley). Given that it’s been 20 years since we’ve had a woman in that chair, it’s probably safe to assume that there were no “binders of women” rushed to debate organizers. That must have been why it took the will and wherewithal of three teenage girls from New Jersey to remind them that since the candidates are trying so hard to woo the “women’s vote,” it actually might be helpful to, well, see a woman. They petitioned for a woman moderator, and clearly they succeeded.
If ever there was someone to wait 20 years for, Candy seemed like it – vibrant, enticing and engaging. She said in an interview that she decided (wisely) to stand during the debate to give her, excuse the expression, equal footing with the candidates. Candy’s background is intriguing: She was a stay-at-home mom for six years and has two grown sons; one is a neurosurgeon the other is a rock musician. Although having Candy moderate the debate was an important milestone for women, it also served as a reminder of how far we have yet to go.
Romney’s memorable “binders full of women” comment occurred when trying to explain his effort to have more women join his cabinet and, toward that end, he went to women’s groups who brought him binders full of women. Politics aside, the whole conversation serves as a superb and simple reminder that women are underrepresented in senior positions in business and politics. Though as I often remind people about GWEN, finding the right women to assume senior roles in business and/or politics shouldn’t be about finding a name in binder to make your numbers look better, it’s about cultivating and recognizing talent in women who will immediately be considered on their merit. That, and as research continuously proves, it is good for business.
The discussion also touched on traditional gender roles when Romney said that he “recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible.” His example of flexibility, however, was allowing his chief of staff to “get home at 5” to make dinner for her family and be with her children. Maybe that’s precisely what she’s doing or maybe it’s to train for a marathon or, maybe, it’s even to moderate a presidential debate.
A television critic for the LA Times, Mary McNamara, said it best the morning after Candy’s – er, I mean the Presidential – debate. “Moderator Candy Crowley, like Supreme Court justices should be appointed for life.” Now that’s what I would call one very special binder…
Gail Becker is chair of Canada, Latin America and U.S. Western Region
Image by huffstutterrobertl