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December 11, 2018

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Ep. 4: Gretchen Carlson’s “Jump off a Cliff”

December 11, 2018

Television anchor and “Me Too” activist Gretchen Carlson talks about her experience with sexual harassment and assault, the importance of a plan, the role of bystanders, and how her brave “jump off a cliff” helped launch a movement.

About this Episode:

Carly sat down with Gretchen Carlson in New York for a conversation about courage in the face of a powerful status quo. They discuss:

  • Diving into controversy, Miss America, and a lifelong pattern of harassment

  • When Gretchen & Carly learned that the world is different for women

  • Gretchen’s harrowing story of assault

  • The survivor’s voice

  • Why making a plan makes a difference

  • How harassment happens in every industry and in every sector – and it crushes potential

  • How to tackle trauma in your unique way

  • How in every case of harassment, there were ALWAYS bystanders: “people knew”

  • How we’ve all been guilty of being bystanders – and we use a lot of excuses to justify standing by

  • How the #MeToo movement is just getting started – thanks in part to Gretchen Carlson’s leadership

  • How you can do it, too

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About the Guest:

Journalist, author, and advocate Gretchen Carlson (@GretchenCarlson) paved the way for #metoo with her historic 2016 sexual harassment complaint against the chairman of Fox News. Named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” and author of New York Times bestsellers “Be Fierce” and “Getting Real,” Carlson is one of America’s most successful news anchors and a globally recognized advocate for women’s empowerment.




Today’s example, who stepped “off a cliff” and into the #MeToo movement [0:38]

Carly introduces us to today’s example: Gretchen Carlson [0:38]

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  • Gretchen Carlson was a television anchor on Fox News who took a brave leap, becoming one of the first women to publicly accuse her workplace harasser – helping to inspire the #MeToo movement

  • A leader and problem-solver, Gretchen Carlson recognized that the massive and entrenched status quo had to be changed

Diving into controversy, Miss America, and a pattern of harassment [2:50]

  • Though it sometimes feels like we’ve been experiencing the #MeToo movement for years, it’s still a very new phenomenon -and Gretchen Carlson was one of the first to stand up

  • Beyond being an affable and personable Fox News host, Gretchen Carlson also is and has been a classical violinist; valedictorian; Miss Minnesota & Miss America; graduate of Stanford University

  • She stood up to then-Fox News Chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes; she’s not allowed to talk about her case due to a settlement, but the court documents allege a pattern of behavior that included sexual advances, harassment, and discrimination [you can read the documents here:]

A happy, chubby tomboy and a token bimbo – and a devastating, harrowing story of assault [6:30]

Gretchen Carlson and Carly talk about when they learned that the world is different for women [6:30]

When I went to the Stanford Dean to tell her I was stopping out... to try and become Miss America, she looked at me and said: ‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.’
  • Gretchen Carlson’s parents played an important role in encouraging her to find self-worth beyond her good looks – something she says was necessary, given that she struggled with her weight throughout her life

  • Carly and Gretchen Carlson had similar, unfortunate experiences in which they realized that things are different for women, including after someone introduced Carly to her subordinates as “our taken bimbo” and when the Stanford dean told Gretchen Carlson she was stupid for pursuing Miss America

  • One of Gretchen Carlson’s first assignments was covering the Anita Hill hearings – and she was confused, at the time, about why people didn’t believe her

Gretchen Carlson shares a harrowing story of assault [10:10]

  • She was assaulted very early into her career – just after her assignment on the Anita Hill hearings

  • For 25 years, she didn’t tell anyone about it, in part because of the culture that encouraged women to push things away, rise above, and work harder

  • Recently she has been able to talk about what happened and has finally called it what it was: assault

Gretchen Carlson’s survivor’s voice [11:34]

  • Gretchen Carlson’s survivor’s voice is powerful – and emerged through her childhood, where she developed a strong sense of self

  • Coming forward after 25 years to share that story for others who have had a similar experience must have been incredibly difficult

  • She pushed through decades of fear and shame at the very pinnacle of her career to use her platform for good

The importance of a plan and the pervasiveness of #MeToo [16:30]

Gretchen Carlson and Carly talk about why making a plan makes a difference [16:30]

  • Sometimes women are afraid to come forward because they’re afraid they won’t be taken seriously - that others will think they are emotional or overwrought

  • One way to combat that is by having a plan, which Gretchen Carlson outlines in her book: “Be Fierce” [you can buy Gretchen Carlson’s book here:]

  • The biggest mistake women can make when facing harassment is to work hard and shut down – and then erupt and tell someone without a plan

This happens in every industry and in every sector – and it crushes potential [18:00]

  • It is pervasive and it crosses socioeconomic lines; it happens to police officers, to military leaders, to lawyers, or bankers, or teachers

  • Almost 100% of the thousands of women who reached out to Gretchen with a similar experience described how they never worked in their chosen profession again

Look around and you might start to notice more stories of crushed potential just like these [19:21]

  • Jeffrey shares a story of a colleague who started off in the private sector and ended up in academia and research; it turned out that she had made that transition because of the harassment that she faced

  • She had to make a tradeoff of compensation for culture – a difficult tradeoff that nobody should have to make

Your plan is your plan, “people knew,” and the bystander effect [22:41]

Everyone’s plan to tackle trauma does and must look a little different [22:41]

  • Some people put their heads down and do work – they try to get out of the situation but they’re not ready to confront it

  • Casey shares a story of a friend who told her about an assault but asked her not to do anything about it – just to listen

  • Ultimately, we have to respect that our friends and colleagues have different mechanisms for coping with trauma; we have to understand and respect that everyone’s context looks a little different

In every media case, there were bystanders: “people knew” [25:52]

  • Carly and Gretchen Carlson talk about how we can’t have bystanders – and that is hard; it takes almost as much courage to come forward as a bystander as it does a survivor

  • Women have to continue coming forward, but it’s really time for the boys to man up [check out Carly’s op-ed on this topic here:]

  • Sexual harassment is not about sex – it’s about power

We’ve all been bystanders – and we use a lot of excuses to justify standing by [28:25]

  • There are a lot of excuses not to come forward – maybe they’re together, it’s none of my business, is it just me that saw that?

  • We often see things through our own, personal lenses: how will this affect me?

There’s a spectrum of standing by; we need to be aware of where we are on that spectrum and how we can step forward [30:20]

  • What happened at the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania is on one end of the spectrum [you can read more about that horrific story here:]

  • Most men and women that don’t come forward are not of that ilk; they’re not bad people – they may have good intentions, in fact, in not wanting to come forward

  • But we have to examine our biases: Why do we come in with those biases? How do we overcome them to put the other person at the center of our concern?

  • We have to be aware that just because you’re not actively engaged in the trauma does not mean that you are not involved; by being aware and not actively engaging, you’re passively supporting a culture

  • There’s a balance between grace for yourself (you’re not a bad person if you’ve been a bystander in the past) – but you do have a responsibility to be introspective and then turn that introspection outward, to the people around you who may be experiencing trauma

Not a flash in the pan, you’re not alone, and how to lead like Gretchen Carlson [33:20]

The #MeToo movement is just getting started – thanks in part to Gretchen Carlson’s leadership [33:20]

A leader has the... character to keep going when the going gets tough, as it always does.
  • To assume this isn’t a sustainable movement is a cop-out; we’re just getting started

  • Carly discusses how Gretchen’s courage and character – her willingness to jump off the cliff without a net – demonstrates real leadership

  • Gretchen Carlson wears a bracelet on her arm that says, “Be Fierce” to remind herself every day of what she’s fighting for, even if she doesn’t feel like it

  • The goal of any leader is to inspire others to stand up and move forward and help make the problem better

You can do it, too [37:26]

  • You don’t have to be Gretchen Carlson to recognize your truth – to recognize that the status quo isn’t okay – and to speak up about it

  • That’s one of the most powerful pieces of #MeToo – you’re not alone; when you take that first step, recognize that there are people who want to support you and who understand what you are going through

  • We can all reflect on our experiences – chances are, we have experienced or seen someone experiencing this

  • And we can start leading by acknowledging that problem – by taking a step and figuring how we can influence, have an impact in the settings and on the problems right in front of us




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