Mignon Clyburn becomes the First African-American Woman to Head the FCC

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Earlier this week, Mignon Clyburn became the first African-American  woman to head the Federal Communications Commission. Although, Clyburn will head the Commission, which started in 1934, her position is temporary; Congress is currently approving Obama’s permanent choice for head of the commission, Tom Wheeler, which could take an unforeseen amount of time.

Mignon Clyburn overtook the position when former head Julius Genachowski resigned to join the Aspen Institute, a research institution, as a senior fellow. Although, Clyburn’s position is brief she will lead the organization through an important time, which includes regulating media ownership and a decision on the Softbank-Sprint deal.

Clyburn began at the FCC in August 2009, after spending 11 years serving on the Public Service Commission of South Carolina.

Clyburn’s first act of business as acting chairwoman was addressing the staff of the FCC, acknowledging her plan for the organization. According to, “At FCC, Mignon Clyburn cracks the glass ceiling”, by Brooks Boliek for Politico, Clyburn, stated, “I see myself as a member of a relay team, running one of the middle legs. My job is to build on forward momentum, give the next teammate a running start, an improved position, and no matter what, my goal is not to drop the baton.”

Clyburn continued her role as FCC Chairwoman by speaking at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association Convention in Las Vegas on Monday. Clyburn spoke on strategies the FCC has enacted to make efficient use of spectrum space. White space spectrum is what sits between TV channels and is becoming the playground for applications that includes networks, public safety and smart grids. She also cited the role of mobile technology in our society.

There was a big push for Obama to nominate a woman for the permanent position, which included a letter sent to the White House by 50 national organizations. However, Obama chose to keep with tradition and chose Tom Wheeler, a Caucasian male and former head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Associations, a lobbying group.

According to, “Obama to Pick Wheeler for FCC, Watt for FHFA” by Reuters for CNBC, the White House cited the decision of choose Wheeler because of his experience. "Tom Wheeler is an experienced leader in the communications technology field who shares the president's commitment to protecting consumers, promoting innovation, enhancing competition and encouraging investment," the White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Tuesday in disclosing Wheeler's nomination. Wheeler was a big fundraiser for the Obama campaigns. His confirmation by Senate could take months.

Although, Clyburn will only hold this position for an unknown limited amount of time, her position is important to the African-American and Female communities, because it is he first time that a member of these communities will hold this position.

Once Wheeler is confirmed Clyburn will step down, her plans after her high position at the FCC are unknown.

Tatiana M. Brown is a native of Washington, D.C. who is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Follow her @TatianaMBrown or check out her website, or contact her at tatiana@forharriet.com

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