Gretchen Carlson is a pioneer in the fight to end workplace harassment. In 2016, her decades-long career as one of America’s most successful journalists was turned on its head after her groundbreaking sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes. Since then, she’s continued to speak out, bringing her fight to end the silencing of harassment victims through forced arbitration and non-disclosure agreements all the way to Capitol Hill. In conversation with Chief Member Sterrin Bird, Carlson spoke candidly on courage, #MeToo, and why advocacy keeps her up at night — and helps her sleep.

On What Drove Her to Stand Up

"Fox made the horrendous decision to fire me, and that really was what catapulted me, because I said to myself, if I don't stand up and do this now, and speak up about what's happening to me here, then who will? I had killed myself to get to where I was in my career. For me it was, 'Wow, my career is being taken away from me and it's not my choice.' And there's something inherently wrong with that. And it's not just me. What I have found out is this is a pervasive epidemic in our nation and all around the world. We're pushing women and people of color out of the workplace because of these silencing mechanisms and because of harassment and discrimination. We don't even know how many, because it's all been under wraps. That's what I'm trying to change."

On Corporate America’s Silencing Epidemic

"By 2024, 80% of corporate America will bind their employees with secret forced arbitration. It's become another pervasive epidemic. We have the pervasive epidemic of sexual harassment in the workplace. Now we have the pervasive epidemic of shutting people up and putting it into secrecy. Basically, it takes away your Seventh Amendment right to an open jury process. Then they immediately start to blame you, punish you, protect the predator, push you off into a secret chamber, and nobody ever hears from you ever again. What I’ve found out from the thousands of people who've reached out to me is that they never ever work in their chosen profession ever again. How many women have we pushed out over the last three decades when corporations got smart and started abusing the use of arbitration in this way?"

"If you're a company and you believe that it's okay to silence your people, then you probably also believe that it's okay to not pay them for it. So, when we get rid of these silencing mechanisms, we believe that we actually start to get to equity on all the other fronts."

On Governor Cuomo’s Resignation

"I always say to people, 'You can't just choose to believe these women because your politics don't align with it or do align with it.' This is an apolitical issue. Before somebody decides to harass or assault you, they don't ask you what party you're in, because they don't give a damn. It's all about power. The Cuomo investigation proved that independent investigations work, and that's what I've been fighting for for the last five years."

On the Texas Abortion Law

"This is a human rights violation in my mind. We knew we were going to get here. That's the scary part. For the last four years, I think that we have been watching a lot of things that we thought we had changed and overcome come back to life. We're back to discussing racism in a way that we haven't in 40 years. Same thing with women's rights. It's interesting for me to watch these things happening on parallel paths, because I do think that we've made so much progress at the same time that we're seeing so much downfall on the same issues. I'd point to the movement that I'm in. That's hugely successful, while at the same time, we've also been putting women down like the Texas law. Some people say to me, 'Do you think that the Trump presidency hurt women's rights and movement for your issues?’ I said, 'Well, yes, but also I think it inspired people to work harder to make sure that those things don't happen.'"

On Mentorship

"I think so few women get to the top levels that, when they do, they're sort of straddling the fence and they're like, 'Should I be in the boys' club because I need to do it to survive or should I be over here, trying to lift up women underneath me?' A lot of us were maybe guilty of giving the wrong advice to other women below us in the past about these particular issues. You know, 'Just be quiet about this if you want to save your job.' I think that's created this sort of conflict inside the workplace between women quite honestly. But it really is because there are not enough women in the higher positions."

On Finding the Courage to Use Your Voice

"Courage is not like turning on the lights when you walk into the room. It's not as simple as saying, 'Hey, I think I'll flip the switch and I'm going to sue Roger Ailes, the most powerful man in media — maybe, arguably, businessman in the world — at that time … I harkened back to that gutsy little girl when I decided to do what I did five years ago and jump off the cliff in suing Roger Ailes at Fox News. It really did go back to the way I was raised and the same guts I felt when I was five and fighting to be in the right reading group. Literally, and that carried through with me throughout my life.

"All women want to do is stay working. That's the whole disaster in this whole thing. For having the courage to come forward, you never work again. Hang on tight if it's happening to you right now. I'm trying to change the laws, but we can all do this together, too, if we decide that we're going to all speak up."