Power Players

When making fun of the news makes the news

Top Line

When it comes to the gender gap in her male-dominated profession, does political cartoonist Jen Sorensen really have to draw you a picture?

Sorensen, a nationally acclaimed political cartoonist, recently became the first woman to win the coveted Herblock Prize, which celebrates excellence in editorial cartooning.

“I feel a kinship with Janet Yellen,” Jen Sorensen jokingly told “Top Line” after receiving the award. “I mean, she had to wait for 14 Federal Reserve chairs before she was able to get on.”

Ever the ironic cartoonist, Sorensen’s reference harks back to one of her most notable cartoons, which is a side-by-side sketch of Yellen, the current and first woman Federal Reserve chair, next to Larry Summers, who was also a frontrunner for the job before Yellen was ultimately nominated by Obama.

But because the Herblock prize is only in its 11th year of existence, Sorensen said she doesn’t begrudge being the first woman honoree. “There were 10 male winners before me and that actually represents a fairly accurate ratio of men women in political cartooning,” she explained.

The Herblock Prize is named in honor of the Washington Post’s late Herb Block, whose legendary career as an editorial cartoonist is best remembered for his Watergate-era cartoons related to Richard Nixon.

But in a departure from Block’s signature one-panel style, Sorensen tells her stories in several frames.

“I'm part of the alternative school of cartooning,” Sorensen joked. “I have always liked that multi-panel format, because you get a chance to talk about slightly more obscure issues, and you can do a little set up in the first panel in case people aren't familiar with what you're talking about.”

While it’s hard to imagine any one cartoonist having the same reach as Block once did, some of Sorensen’s cartoons have permeated the corridors of Washington policymakers.

One series of Sorensen’s cartoons that had impact within the Beltway focused on the Affordable Care Act and was published to Kaiser Health News. In one of her cartoons, Sorensen portrays Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts being influenced by one of her comics. Though the cartoon is “fantasy,” Sorensen said that affecting the national debate is an editorial cartoonist’s ultimate dream.

“It's always nice to think that it's being seen and might change someone's mind,” she said. “Usually it's about just picking an issue that really moves me and saying the best thing I can possibly say about it, and if it does get shared, that's wonderful.”

To see some of Sorensen’s cartoons, and to hear about the inspiration behind her cartoon called “The Gentrification of Snack Food,” check out this episode of “Top Line.”

ABC News’  Richard Coolidge Tom Thornton, Nick Greiner and David Girard contributed to this episode.

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