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TEDWomen 2017

Gretchen Carlson: How we can end sexual harassment at work

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Views 1,078,930

When Gretchen Carlson spoke out about her experience of workplace sexual harassment, it inspired women everywhere to take their power back and tell the world what happened to them. In a remarkable, fierce talk, she tells her story -- and identifies three specific things we can all do to create safer places to work. "We will no longer be underestimated, intimidated or set back," Carlson says. "We will stand up and speak up and have our voices heard. We will be the women we were meant to be."

- TV journalist, women's empowerment advocate
Gretchen Carlson is a tireless advocate for workplace equality and women's empowerment. Full bio

"All I wanted was
a much-deserved promotion,
00:13
and he told me to 'Get up on the desk
00:16
and spread 'em.'"
00:18
"All the men in my office
wrote down on a piece of paper
00:21
the sexual favors
that I could do for them.
00:24
All I had asked for
was an office with a window."
00:27
"I asked for his advice about how
I could get a bill out of committee;
00:32
he asked me if I brought my kneepads."
00:36
Those are just a few
of the horrific stories
00:41
that I heard from women
over the last year,
00:44
as I've been investigating
workplace sexual harassment.
00:46
And what I found out
00:50
is that it's an epidemic across the world.
00:52
It's a horrifying reality
for millions of women,
00:56
when all they want to do every day
00:59
is go to work.
01:01
Sexual harassment doesn't discriminate.
01:04
You can wear a skirt,
01:07
hospital scrubs,
01:09
army fatigues.
01:11
You can be young or old,
01:13
married or single,
01:15
black or white.
01:16
You can be a Republican,
a Democrat or an Independent.
01:17
I heard from so many women:
01:22
police officers,
01:26
members of our military,
01:27
financial assistants,
01:28
actors, engineers, lawyers,
01:30
bankers, accountants, teachers ...
01:33
journalists.
01:37
Sexual harassment, it turns out,
01:41
is not about sex.
01:43
It's about power,
01:46
and about what somebody does to you
01:48
to try and take away your power.
01:51
And I'm here today
01:54
to encourage you to know
that you can take that power back.
01:57
(Applause)
02:03
On July 6, 2016,
02:07
I jumped off a cliff all by myself.
02:11
It was the scariest moment of my life;
02:14
an excruciating choice to make.
02:16
I fell into an abyss all alone,
02:21
not knowing what would be below.
02:24
But then, something miraculous
started to happen.
02:28
Thousands of women
started reaching out to me
02:31
to share their own stories
of pain and agony and shame.
02:34
They told me that I became their voice --
02:38
they were voiceless.
02:40
And suddenly, I realized
that even in the 21st century,
02:44
every woman still has a story.
02:47
Like Joyce,
02:52
a flight attendant supervisor
02:55
whose boss, in meetings every day,
02:56
would tell her about the porn
that he'd watched the night before
02:58
while drawing penises on his notepad.
03:01
She went to complain.
03:03
She was called "crazy" and fired.
03:04
Like Joanne, Wall Street banker.
03:07
Her male colleagues would call her
that vile c-word every day.
03:09
She complained --
03:13
labeled a troublemaker,
03:14
never to do another
Wall Street deal again.
03:15
Like Elizabeth, an army officer.
03:19
Her male subordinates would wave
one-dollar bills in her face,
03:22
and say, "Dance for me!"
03:26
And when she went to complain to a major,
03:28
he said, "What? Only one dollar?
03:30
You're worth at least five or ten!"
03:33
After reading,
03:38
replying to all
03:39
and crying over all of these emails,
03:42
I realized I had so much work to do.
03:46
Here are the startling facts:
03:52
one in three women -- that we know of --
03:54
have been sexually harassed
in the workplace.
03:56
Seventy-one percent of those incidences
never get reported.
04:00
Why?
04:06
Because when women come forward,
04:08
they're still called liars
and troublemakers
04:10
and demeaned and trashed
04:12
and demoted and blacklisted
04:14
and fired.
04:16
Reporting sexual harassment can be,
in many cases, career-ending.
04:17
Of all the women that reached out to me,
04:23
almost none are still today working
in their chosen profession,
04:26
and that is outrageous.
04:30
I, too, was silent in the beginning.
04:36
It happened to me at the end
of my year as Miss America,
04:40
when I was meeting with
a very high-ranking TV executive
04:44
in New York City.
04:47
I thought he was helping me
throughout the day,
04:48
making a lot of phone calls.
04:50
We went to dinner,
04:51
and in the back seat of a car,
he suddenly lunged on top of me
04:53
and stuck his tongue down my throat.
04:56
I didn't realize that to "get
into the business" -- silly me --
04:59
he also intended to get into my pants.
05:05
And just a week later,
05:10
when I was in Los Angeles
meeting with a high-ranking publicist,
05:11
it happened again.
05:16
Again, in a car.
05:18
And he took my neck in his hand,
05:19
and he shoved my head
so hard into his crotch,
05:22
I couldn't breathe.
05:25
These are the events that suck the life
out of all of your self-confidence.
05:33
These are the events that, until recently,
05:41
I didn't even call assault.
05:45
And this is why we have
so much work to do.
05:51
After my year as Miss America,
05:59
I continued to meet
a lot of well-known people,
06:01
including Donald Trump.
06:04
When this picture was taken in 1988,
06:08
nobody could have ever predicted
where we'd be today.
06:10
(Laughter)
06:12
Me, fighting to end sexual
harassment in the workplace;
06:15
he, president of the United States
06:19
in spite of it.
06:21
And shortly thereafter, I got
my first gig in television news
06:26
in Richmond, Virginia.
06:29
Check out that confident smile
with the bright pink jacket.
06:30
Not so much the hair.
06:33
(Laughter)
06:34
I was working so hard to prove
that blondes have a lot of brains.
06:36
But ironically, one of the first
stories I covered
06:43
was the Anita Hill hearings
in Washington, DC.
06:45
And shortly thereafter,
06:48
I, too, was sexually harassed
in the workplace.
06:50
I was covering a story in rural Virginia,
06:54
and when we got back into the car,
06:56
my cameraman started saying to me,
06:58
wondering how much I had enjoyed
when he touched my breasts
07:00
when he put the microphone on me.
07:03
And it went downhill from there.
07:04
I was bracing myself
against the passenger door --
07:06
this was before cellphones.
07:09
I was petrified.
07:10
I actually envisioned myself
rolling outside of that door
07:12
as the car was going 50 miles per hour
like I'd seen in the movies,
07:16
and wondering how much it would hurt.
07:19
When the story about
Harvey Weinstein came to light --
07:25
one the most well-known
movie moguls in all of Hollywood --
07:28
the allegations were horrific.
07:32
But so many women came forward,
07:34
and it made me realize
what I had done meant something.
07:36
(Applause)
07:41
He had such a lame excuse.
07:48
He said he was a product
of the '60s and '70s,
07:50
and that that was the culture then.
07:53
Yeah, that was the culture then,
07:54
and unfortunately, it still is.
07:56
Why?
07:59
Because of all the myths
08:01
that are still associated
with sexual harassment.
08:03
"Women should just take another job
and find another career."
08:07
Yeah, right.
08:10
Tell that to the single mom
working two jobs,
08:11
trying to make ends meet,
08:13
who's also being sexually harassed.
08:15
"Women --
08:18
they bring it on themselves."
08:19
By the clothes that we wear
08:22
and the makeup that we put on.
08:23
Yeah, I guess those hoodies
that Uber engineers wear in Silicon Valley
08:25
are just so provocative.
08:29
"Women make it up."
08:32
Yeah, because it's so fun and rewarding
08:34
to be demeaned and taken down.
08:37
I would know.
08:40
"Women bring these claims
because they want to be famous and rich."
08:43
Our own president said that.
08:48
I bet Taylor Swift,
08:52
one of the most well-known
and richest singers in the world,
08:54
didn't need more money or fame
08:58
when she came forward
with her groping case
09:00
for one dollar.
09:02
And I'm so glad she did.
09:04
Breaking news:
09:09
the untold story about women
and sexual harassment in the workplace:
09:10
women just want a safe, welcoming
09:16
and harass-free environment.
09:19
That's it.
09:22
(Applause)
09:24
So how do we go about
getting our power back?
09:30
I have three solutions.
09:33
Number one:
09:35
we need to turn bystanders
and enablers into allies.
09:37
Ninety-eight percent of United States
corporations right now
09:41
have sexual harassment training policies.
09:44
Seventy percent have prevention programs.
09:47
But still, overwhelmingly,
09:50
bystanders and witnesses
don't come forward.
09:53
In 2016,
09:57
the Harvard Business Review
called it the "bystander effect."
09:58
And yet -- remember 9/11.
10:03
Millions of times we've heard,
10:07
"If you see something,
10:09
say something."
10:11
Imagine how impactful that would be
if we carried that through
10:13
to bystanders in the workplace
regarding sexual harassment --
10:17
to recognize and interrupt
these incidences;
10:21
to confront the perpetrators
to their face;
10:26
to help and protect the victims.
10:30
This is my shout-out to men:
10:34
we need you in this fight.
10:36
And to women, too --
10:39
enablers to allies.
10:41
Number two:
10:44
change the laws.
10:45
How many of you out there know
10:49
whether or not you have
a forced arbitration clause
10:50
in your employment contract?
10:52
Not a lot of hands.
10:56
And if you don't know, you should,
10:57
and here's why.
10:59
TIME Magazine calls it,
11:01
right there on the screen,
11:02
"The teeny tiny little print in contracts
11:04
that keeps sexual
harassment claims unheard."
11:07
Here's what it is.
11:11
Forced arbitration takes away
your Seventh Amendment right
11:13
to an open jury process.
11:15
It's secret.
11:17
You don't get the same
witnesses or depositions.
11:20
In many cases, the company
picks the arbitrator for you.
11:22
There are no appeals,
11:25
and only 20 percent of the time
does the employee win.
11:28
But again, it's secret,
11:31
so nobody ever knows what happened to you.
11:33
This is why I've been
working so diligently
11:37
on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC
11:39
to change the laws.
11:41
And here's what I tell the Senators:
11:42
sexual harassment is apolitical.
11:44
Before somebody harasses you,
11:46
they don't ask you if you're
a Republican or Democrat first.
11:48
They just do it.
11:51
And this is why we should all care.
11:53
Number three:
11:56
be fierce.
11:57
It starts when we stand tall,
11:59
and we build that self-confidence.
12:02
And we stand up and we speak up,
12:04
and we tell the world what happened to us.
12:06
I know it's scary,
12:09
but let's do it for our kids.
12:11
Let's stop this for the next generations.
12:14
I know that I did it for my children.
12:18
They were paramount in my decision-making
12:22
about whether or not I would come forward.
12:25
My beautiful children,
12:27
my 12-year-old son, Christian,
12:28
my 14-year-old daughter, Kaia.
12:30
And boy, did I underestimate them.
12:32
The first day of school last year
12:36
happened to be the day
my resolution was announced,
12:37
and I was so anxious
about what they would face.
12:40
My daughter came home
from school and she said,
12:42
"Mommy, so many people asked me
what happened to you over the summer."
12:44
Then she looked at me in the eyes
12:48
and she said, "And mommy,
12:49
I was so proud
12:51
to say that you were my mom."
12:53
And two weeks later,
12:58
when she finally found the courage
to stand up to two kids
13:00
who had been making her life miserable,
13:04
she came home to me and she said,
13:06
"Mommy, I found the courage to do it
13:07
because I saw you do it."
13:11
(Applause)
13:16
You see, giving the gift
of courage is contagious.
13:24
And I hope that my journey
has inspired you,
13:30
because right now, it's the tipping point.
13:33
We are watching history happen.
13:36
More and more women
are coming forward and saying,
13:39
"Enough is enough."
13:41
(Applause)
13:46
Here's my one last plea to companies.
13:51
Let's hire back all those women
whose careers were lost
13:54
because of some random jerk.
13:59
Because here's what I know about women:
14:02
we will not longer be underestimated,
intimidated or set back;
14:05
we will not be silenced
by the ways of the establishment
14:09
or the relics of the past.
14:13
No.
14:15
We will stand up and speak up
14:16
and have our voices heard.
14:20
We will be the women we were meant to be.
14:22
And above all,
14:27
we will always be fierce.
14:29
Thank you.
14:34
(Applause)
14:35

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About the speaker:

Gretchen Carlson - TV journalist, women's empowerment advocate
Gretchen Carlson is a tireless advocate for workplace equality and women's empowerment.

Why you should listen

Gretchen Carlson most recently hosted "The Real Story" on Fox News for three years, and prior to that co-hosted the #1 rated cable morning news show, "Fox and Friends," for more than seven years.Carlson started her television career in Richmond, Virginia, as a political reporter, and later served as an anchor and reporter in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dallas. She moved to the national scene as the co-host of "The Saturday Early Show" on CBS in 2000, where she also served as a CBS News correspondent covering the G-8 Summit in Genoa, Italy, the Timothy McVeigh execution, 9-11 from the World Trade Center, the Bush-Gore election and many other national and international stories. She reported and produced a 30-part series on domestic violence that won several national awards. In 2015, Carlson's first book, Getting Real, became a national best-seller. In January 2017, Carlson was tapped as a columnist for TIME magazine's online Motto newsletter, focusing on women and empowerment issues.

An honors graduate of Stanford University, Carlson was valedictorian of her high school class and studied at Oxford University in England. She grew up as a child prodigy on the violin, performed as a soloist with the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra at age 13, and, in 1989, became the first classical violinist ever to win the Miss America crown. In 2016, Carlson became the face of sexual harassment in the workplace, gracing the cover of TIME magazine and standing strong in her determination to promote a safe working environment for all women. To that end, she plans to testify before Congress about workplace inequality and the prevalence of forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts that often keep sexual harassment claims shrouded in secrecy.

Ever grateful for her success and the opportunities provided to her and imbued with a "never give up" attitude, Carlson has mentored dozens of young women throughout her career. In 2017 Carlson created the Gift of Courage Fun, a foundation to empower young girls by helping them build self-esteem and instilling within them the confidence of knowing that they can be anything they want to be. Carlson serves as a national Trustee for the March of Dimes, a member of the Board of Directors for the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary in Newtown, Connecticut and a Trustee of Greenwich Academy, an all-girls preparatory day school in Greenwich, Connecticut. She is an active volunteer and teacher at her church and, in 2016, hosted the "Miss You Can Do It" pageant in Illinois to celebrate the achievements of courageous girls and young women with disabilities. Carlson is married to sports agent Casey Close and mom to their two children.

More profile about the speaker
Gretchen Carlson | Speaker | TED.com