I’m Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. We’re on a mission to help you be remarkable. Assisting me in this episode is the remarkable Gretchen Carlson.
Gretchen became a voice for the voiceless after she went public with harassment claims against then Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.
This courageous act accelerated the #MeToo movement, leading her to become Lift Our Voices‘ co-founder. This nonprofit organization is fighting to eradicate forced arbitration clauses and non-disclosure agreements.
Gretchen was one of America’s most successful journalists, leading coverage of historical events, including the World Trade Center bombing and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Gretchen has written two books: first, Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back, and second, Getting Real.
She made an investigative video series called Breaking the Silence. Her story has been told in the Oscar-nominated movie Bombshell and the Showtime mini-series The Loudest Voice.
Please enjoy this remarkable episode with Gretchen Carlson: How to Be Fierce!
If you enjoyed this episode of the Remarkable People podcast, please leave a rating, write a review, and subscribe. Thank you!
Transcript of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People podcast with Gretchen Carlson:
I'm Guy Kawasaki and this is Remarkable People. We're on a mission to help you be remarkable.
Assisting me in this episode is the remarkable Gretchen Carlson.
Gretchen became a voice for the voiceless after she went public with sexual harassment claims against then Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.
This courageous act accelerated the Me Too Movement and later to become the co-founder of Lift Our Voices.
This nonprofit organization is fighting to eradicate forced arbitration clauses and non-disclosure agreements.
Gretchen was one of America's most successful journalists. She led coverage of historic events including the World Trade Center bombing and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Gretchen has written two books, first, Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back.
Second, Getting Real.
She also made an investigative video series called Breaking the Silence. Her story has been told in the movie Bombshell and the Showtime mini-series, The Loudest Voice.
I'm Guy Kawasaki. This is Remarkable People. And now here's the remarkably fierce Gretchen Carlson.
So do you mind if we go back in history and start with Miss America?
Sure, why not?
I'm a podcast guest as opposed to hosts a lot of times, and people always want to start by talking about the Macintosh Division. And I am so sick about talking about the Macintosh Division, probably the way you feel about Miss America.
Yeah, it was a long time ago. I don't have a problem talking about it because it was something I never expected to do. My life is really emblematic of that actually. I've gone in so many different mysterious ways.
So it's not like I was a pageant person my whole life and then this was my dream to be Miss America. I happened upon it 100 percent because I played the violin as a kid and I played it really, really well and then I quit. My parents were devastated and they found out that in the Miss America system, half of your points are based on talent.
And it was really a way for my mom to get me to play the violin again, to be honest with you.
She called me up when I was studying at Oxford on a program through Stanford University and she said, "I found something for you to do this summer." And I said, "No, I already have plans. I'm staying at Oxford. I'm doing this business program."
She said, "No, I got a brochure in the mail on the Miss America system. You're going to enter your first local pageant." My mom has been an incredibly persuasive person in my life and the driving force behind much of what I have done, she somehow convinced me. I was like, "Mom, I am from Minnesota. That is not a pageant state. I am short. Have you ever noticed? Number three, I play classical violin. It has never won Miss America." And she was like, "I don't care. You play violin and you're smart and I think you can do this." So that's really why I entered.
And then let me just also say that all of the money that you win in the system is scholarship money.
So I paid for my whole last year of Stanford from winning Miss America. My parents were really psyched about that. It was a wonderful experience. It was not something that I planned on doing, but it certainly taught me so many communication skills and I had to give speeches every single day many times without notes.
It actually got me into television because it was something that I was doing on a daily basis. I was doing so many interviews and it rekindled this interest I had as a kid that, "Oh, maybe I'll do TV if I don't do music." So it was a good experience, but something I never planned on.
So Gretchen Carlson, in the first sixty seconds you can say Stanford, Oxford, and Miss America.
How many people can say that? Any one of those three is enough. You got all three.
Yeah. You know what? I've been very fortunate in my life, but I'm just a small town girl from a tiny town in Minnesota. I think the most important thing about my life is that I've always tried to live it very authentically. The biggest compliment somebody can give to me is, "Oh my gosh, you haven't changed at all From the little girl that we knew in Anoka, Minnesota."
And I have been afforded many wonderful opportunities in my life, but one of the mantras in the way in which I was raised and I harken back to Minnesota and the great values I got there, is that my parents always told me I could be anything I wanted to be, but they always said, "You are going to have to work your tail off. This is not going to come easy."
And so it really instilled in me from a young age, this discipline and the idea of hard work and then building self-confidence when you feel better about yourself because you achieved something. And it's really how I've chosen to live the rest of my life.
Fantastic. I don't want you to think that I'm obsessed with Miss America, but I'm just curious. So what does it take or what did it take to win a Miss America contest?
Well first of all, I always say luck, because you are being subjectively judged by other human beings, right? It's not like running a race in the Olympics where you win because you have the best time. And that's how I had been schooled with violin, but it was also subjective.
I would say that it would be more precise to say that being a good student in school was more like running a race where you either get ninety-nine out of 100 or you don't. But Miss America's very subjective. And so I think that for me, having this violin talent that I had honed my whole life since I was six years old, this was going to be my career.
So it's not like I had just picked up the violin the day before and decided, "Hey, I think I'll try and play this." So I did have that going into it.
I did a tremendous amount of preparation. I really approached it like I did a violin competition. So for the interview process, I studied every possible magazine and newspaper I could keep my hands on. I really studied it from afar because I hadn't participated in pageants.
So I looked at a lot of videotape and really analyzed how people held themselves on stage and how they answered questions. And I sought a lot of advice from people who knew a lot more than I did. And then I had my silver bullet, which was my mom, who really was there every step of the way with me and guiding me and giving me support.
I'll never forget, I'll tell you a funny story. On the final day after I became the Miss Town that I had to become and then I became Miss Minnesota and I was going to Atlantic City for Miss America, back when I was competing, which was the late eighties, there was this crazy guy that used to pick his top ten and he based it on absolutely nothing substantive.
He based it on how tall you were, what state you were from, what color your eyes were, and probably how much you weighed. This is how archaic it was. And so of course I did not make his top ten. Why would I? I was so upset by this still.
My mom came to the hotel room really early on the final day of competition and she shook me. She put her hands on my shoulders and she shook me and she said, "Forget him." She said, "I believe in you and I know what you have and this is what they're looking for." I can still feel her shaking me and telling me that. And sure enough, it all worked out. But soon after that, they got rid of that guy making those predictions by the way.
So has the pageant made a transition from appearance to achievement and from femininity to fierceness?
Yeah. I like that.
Is that transition complete?
Yes. I don't know, but maybe four or five years ago I was recruited to come back to serve in a volunteer capacity as the chair of the Miss America Board. And quite honestly, it was absolutely not something I wanted to do. I was just coming off of my lawsuit at Fox News and I was very much embedded in doing advocacy work to make workplaces safer.
But I have trouble saying no, so I took on the responsibility. And as a board, we decided to make Miss America fit into the times in which we live in now better, we thought.
And so we eliminated the swimsuit category because we believed that women who were showcasing their smarts and their talent and were winning scholarship dollars shouldn't be parading around on stage in a bikini in four inch heels in order to win that. We just didn't see the connection to that.
And what people don't understand is that the women who are competing in this system are some of the most dynamic, brilliant, talented women around. We didn't want to continue to give out that stereotypical impression that you had to put on a bikini in order to win that. And so we were really proud of that decision.
There was a loud group of, I would say mostly inside pageant people that were really upset with us. They made themselves very well known. It wasn't a fun time for me. But I believe in my heart that Miss America has always changed as women in our society have evolved and changed. And it was time to make those changes as we were approaching the 100 year anniversary.
Fantastic. Here's the last question about this. So hypothetically, would you want your niece, if you have a niece, to enter it?
I'll make it better for you. My daughter, who's nineteen, who happens to be a very gifted pianist, who also happens to be smart, she’d probably do really well in the Miss America system. But that would be her choice. She obviously knows what I did.
Although funny story, Guy, I don't have anything out in my house that signifies that I was Miss America. So she actually found out that I was Miss America from somebody at school when she was eight years old. And she came home and she said to me, "Mom, I heard you were some America thing." And I said, "Yes." I said, "I've been waiting for this day."
And she said, "What is it?" And so I said, "Well, come up in my closet." And I dug out the crown. I know some people are mortified that I don't know exactly where it is, but it has this really cool box and I dug it out and I showed it to her.
And then I have my gown that I wore in a box. And so I showed that to her and I said, "Do you want to put it on?" And she said, "Yeah."
And then about ten minutes later she was done with it. She was like, "I understand now. That's pretty cool." And I said, "Well, that's why you continue practicing your piano and doing really well in school."
And that was that. I wouldn't tell her or encourage her to do it, that would be her decision. And thus far, she's a STEM student and thinking about pre-med so I don't think it's on her radar screen. But if she wanted to do it, I would wholeheartedly support her.
You just said you're not too sure where the Crown is, but do you know where the pen is that Joe Biden used to sign in the act in March?
I do. It's actually four feet away from me right now. Do you want me to show it to you? Because I just got it framed.
Is it like a Montblanc or some fancy fountain fan?
Yeah. Hold on, I'm going to-
I'm a bit fan.
I'm going to see if this cord can bring me all the way over here and I'm going to get this beautiful framed piece that I just picked up.
So here is the actual bill, now law, that was signed into law. And then there's the pen. And then here are photos from that day of me standing next to the president and lots of other survivors and members of Congress.
So yes, I definitely know where the pen is and I'm going to have to put that up in my office very soon, but I actually just picked it up from the framer.
That's great. So can we now switch topics and we're going back to July 2016. And this is, so people know, the Me Too Movement had started, oh, maybe a decade before, but it certainly had not yet gone viral. Arguably, your decision was a big factor in making it go viral.
So just what went into making such a momentous decision to do what you did?
A lot of things, Guy. I always say that building courage to that level is not like walking into a room and flipping on a light switch. It's not like I just decided the week before that I was going to do something like that. It took years for me to understand what was really going on and what I might be able to do about it. And really a couple things pushed me over the edge.
First of all, getting my family support. I mentioned I grew up in a small town in Minnesota. There's this thing called Minnesota nice. And it's actually true. Everyone's incredibly nice. People don't sue each other as much in Minnesota. It's just you're friendly to everyone. And so my parents had a really hard time getting on board with the idea that their daughter was going to sue somebody really powerful and well known.
But I'll never forget the conversation when they finally called me about six months before and we were all very emotional on the phone and they said, "We're with you. We understand why you have to do what you have to do." And then of course the support of my husband and my two children who were in middle school at the time, they were my paramount concern.
But what really pushed me over the edge was that I got fired. My legal team was shocked at that because in a way it was horrible, but in another way for my case, it was good because it showed I hadn't been fired because I had done something wrong or because I was bad at my job.
So that's really what pushed me over the edge and I finally decided in my heart that a career that I had killed myself for over thirty plus years was being taken away from me and it wasn't my choice. And if I didn't jump off the cliff to help other women, who was going to do it? And I jumped. And as you said, the Me Too phrase had been invented years before, but my case was a full fifteen months before the Harvey Weinstein revelations and the real explosion of the Me Too Movement.
And so I really did feel 100 percent alone. But it was just a huge, huge, biggest decision of my life. And I have absolutely no regrets about what I did. None.
I loved reading your stories about walking through the airport and various airline employees thanking you. That's a great story. But I would like people to understand what's the price of being bold and fierce? What happens when you do something like that?
Yeah, thank you for talking about the positive side of it because I honestly didn't know what was going to happen to me, Guy. When you do something like that, you don't know what's going to happen to you the next five minutes, five days, five months, five years.
I honestly thought I was going to be sitting home crying my eyes up for the rest of my life because I had been fired.
And instead, I started getting that positive reinforcement, whether it was people in the airport or women who started reaching out to me who I had no idea who they were and they just wanted to share their own stories of what had happened to them in a similar way with me.
That is when I realized, "I've got to do something about this." I can't just do this and not make change as a result of this. I have to roll up my sleeves and get to work like I've always known how to do. And that was really the second piece of being bold was, how do I fix this now? We've made this problem apparent because my case got so much attention, but now how do we fix it?
And being bold in that way is almost as difficult, because trying to change the old school ways that we look at this issue of harassment and assault of women in our country we're so ingrained to have disrespect for women and to silence them. And so changing those systems and changing culture is almost impossible, but I've made great headway.
Can you possibly explain how a Roger Ailes or a Harvey Weinstein or a Jeffrey Epstein become what they become? How did they get to that point?
I'm not a psychiatrist, but I would say that in my experience, it's all about power. It's all about a person needing to fulfill something missing in their own life to make them have power over somebody else and make themselves feel better as a result of that.
I often say that so much attention in sexual harassment cases is given to the titillating details of what he might have said to me or what he might have tried to do to me. But the reality is it's all about power. It's all about, "How can I control this person?"
Oftentimes people say, "Strong business women don't let this happen to them." That's BS. I'm one of the strongest people that I know and I had risen to the top of my profession.
But hypothetically, because I have an NDA so I can't really tell you all the details, but let's just say hypothetically, strong women, their boss still has a tremendous amount of power over them because they know that you want to continue to rise up and be the best you can be, right?
And so they can withhold that from you if you don't do certain things. So it has nothing to do with not being a strong woman. It has everything to do in the workplace environment.
You're probably always going to have somebody who's over you and is holding the purse strings to what you want in life. And in that case, no matter how successful you are, you can be a victim of that. And hypothetically, that's what happened to me.
Well, have you wrapped your head around the fact that something as heinous as the Access Hollywood tapes still don't render a candidate unelectable? How can that be true?
Yeah, I get that. After that happened, I got asked that question every single day when I would be out on the speaking circuit or doing interviews. And the only way that I can answer that is that we have seen progress in the workplace where people are accused of things and then they have now been fired.
And so one would say that that is what's just. In the political realm, the American people elect the people that they want to serve them. There really is no way to fire those people unless they're impeached or you just don't elect them again. And so that is the only way that I can explain that.
I don't want to go down the political rabbit hole here, but I think that tape will forever be emblematic of the day that politics changed and the day that what we used to deem as an absolute evisceration of a political candidate, that they would never be able to survive something like that.
I think that tape is going to go down in history as proof that in this era we live in now, that some of the things we thought would make you unelectable don't matter anymore. And that is crazy. It's crazy that we're even at this point. And I know for a long time we were wondering, "Is it just the Trump factor?"
But I think we'll see as we move forward with future elections whether or not other candidates can also have what used to be just deal breakers. It'll be interesting to see if that phenomenon moves on now to other candidates. But that's really the only way that I can answer that, is that the people make decisions of who they want to elect. And the only way that you can get them out of office is to not elect them again.
I don't know if Gary Hart is alive, but he must be shaking his head at that, right?
I think he is alive actually. I think so. As a member of the media, I remember that he actually though wished that upon himself because he actually invited the media to come out.
When there were rumors about it, he was like, "Oh, you should just follow me around because I'm not doing anything wrong." And then they did and found out what there was to find out.
But you're right, there are tons of politicians who never became politicians potentially because they had skeletons in their closet. And it'll be interesting to see how that progresses. Although I would just also make sure to say that there are different kinds of skeletons. I think somebody who treats women with utter disrespect and has been accused of assaulting them is a completely different skeleton in the closet than somebody who was separated from in their marriage and had a one night stand. I don't know.
I just feel like there are so many different qualifications of what would make you not electable or still make you electable. But I would draw the line at actual criminal behavior.
And what's your analysis of the women who are complicit with some of these men?
Yeah, I think women sometimes straddle a fence and walk a fine line. Especially in the workplace, women, if they have risen up to higher levels, I think they're conflicted because they want to be in the boys club, but they also want to raise women up who are underneath them and it can put them in a very difficult situation.
I think that for the longest time, the advice that we were given as women was if something happened to us, to just go along with it and not mention it to anyone else and just stuff it down inside of us and move on. I think some of that complicity is from that.
Now we're talking about, "Let's not do that anymore. Let's speak up and speak out," because we have realized that the only way we fix this is to talk openly about it.
And so I think and I hope that more and more women will be honest about things that have happened to them and will speak up. But it's still problematic when you do.
When women call me and say, "What should I do?" I say, "It's always a personal decision if you want to put your life on the line and make your story public because we have made strides, but you're still probably going to face negative consequences when you come forward and tell your story."
Where do you think we are today? That's a very general question. It's different if you're in a small company versus the Fortune 500 company. But generally speaking, is the trend good? Are we making progress? Or do the pigs continue to run the executive suite?
I will say that this has been a depressing time for women's issues over the last couple of months. However, there's this interesting dichotomy that's going on that while in many respects we feel like women are losing ground, the work I'm doing, we're actually gaining ground. So it's weird that the two things are happening at the same time.
So you were just asking me about the pen that the president used to sign my bill into law. I passed a bipartisan piece of legislation in the most hyper political time of my lifetime. How does that happen? And it was about harassment and assault at a time when women are losing rights in other aspects of their lives.
And so we're living in a weird time, but I feel incredibly optimistic about the work I'm doing because I've made so much progress in a short period of time. This law, this bill that's now law, means that women who are harassed or assaulted at work can't be shoved into secrecy. And that is huge. It's the biggest labor law change in the last 100 years.
It is my greatest life achievement other than my two children. And it's bigger than any president I've ever interviewed or any other interview I had in my television career. This is actually affecting millions of people that I will never meet. But it's affecting them in a good way.
And I'm far from done. There's a lot of great things happening and we have made immense progress in the Me Too Movement in a very short period of time. And as you know better than anyone, making cultural shifts takes decades.
But we have made massive shifts in a short period of time. And at my nonprofit, Lift Our Voices, we continue to do the work every single day. I have another new bill now on the Hill called the Speak Out Act. This time it's about getting rid of NDAs for harassment and assault.
It just passed the Senate a couple of weeks ago and now it moves on to the House. When this passes, then I will have passed two bipartisan pieces of legislation in a matter of seven or eight months. It's huge progress.
If we could back up for a second, maybe you can explain to people who are not familiar what exactly this forced arbitration and NDAs, what were their effects such that you wanted them to be controlled or reversed?
Exactly. Great question. So let me start with, most people have no idea that they have both of these things in their workplace contracts. They sign them on the very first day when they're doing all their paperwork and they have no clue what either of those clauses mean.
If something ends up happening to them at work, that's bad. But I'm here to tell you that it's not good news. Because if you have signed these in your workplace contract, you're basically walking around with a muzzle on from your very first day.
So companies have gotten very smart in trying to hide their dirty laundry by putting these clauses in your contracts so that you don't have a voice. So the two things that I'm fighting against are forced arbitration clauses and non-disclosure agreements.
Forced arbitration is something that was invented to unclog the court system. It was like for small business disputes. So if my neighbor knocked my fence over and it was going to cost them $300 to pay me back but they didn't want to pay me, why go to the court system and clog the court system to argue about that?
Let's go to arbitration where we can settle this in an easier, cheaper venue. The problem is, companies started using arbitration to settle human rights violations at work. It was never intended to figure out harassment cases, discrimination cases, disability cases, but that's how it's been used over the last forty years. And the problem with it is that it's a secret chamber.
So if you have an arbitration clause in your contract like I did and my last contract at Fox, my lawyers actually said to me, "You don't have a case because you're going to arbitration and nobody's ever going to know what happened to you because it's a secret process."
And a minuscule percentage of people like me win in arbitration, because the arbitrators come back for repeat business with the company because they have a ton of cases, but you only have one shot at it with your one complaint.
And so if you have signed this forced arbitration clause and ten years later you're discriminated against and you want to bring a claim, you go to HR thinking you're doing the right thing and they go, "Oh, well you signed a forced arbitration clause on your first day of work. So you're going to arbitration and nobody's ever going to know about this."
Why is that a good process for people who simply have the courage to come forward?
And what it does, Guy, is that it perpetuates this vicious cycle of horrible things happening in the workplace because nobody ever knows about it. And it protects the perpetrator because again, it's secret. So they get to keep working. And so this vicious cycle continues and continues through secrecy. So my bill takes that away for harassment and assault.
Now, women who are harassed or assaulted, or men, have an opportunity to have a choice of whether or not they want to go to the secret chamber of arbitration, which I would not recommend, or if they want to be able to go to an open jury process. And that is why it's huge change because now these cases will be open and out there. And it actually has a dual effect because if a perpetrator knows now that you have a voice, maybe they won't do the behavior to you, right? So it actually fixes the problem at the same time that it gives a person a voice.
NDAs are used in the same way. People sign NDAs on their first day of work. They think they're just signing the ability to not talk about trade secrets. And instead they're signing away their whole ability to say anything about anything that happens to them at work.
So many people have come to me and said, "I just want my voice back," and I say, "I know. I'm so sorry that you signed that on your first day without even really understanding it, and you will never own your own voice." So that's why I'm also trying to get rid of NDAs.
Could there be an unintended consequence of your work vis-a-vis NDAs in the sense that now companies won't pay because they're not going to get the silence, so you will hurt plaintiffs because the companies don't have that same motivation today?
Thank you for asking that question. At my nonprofit, Lift Our Voices, this is the first research question that we want to answer. We already have good data that we're going to use in the state of New Jersey, because in 2019 New Jersey became the first state to ban NDAs for every toxic workplace issue.
So in New Jersey, companies cannot use NDAs for anything other than trade secrets now. And we know anecdotally from speaking to plaintiff's lawyers in the state of New Jersey that nothing has changed with companies paying settlements. Nothing.
So that's what we're trying to raise money for, to do more research like that because we want to be able to bring that to other company CEOs and to members of Congress to say, "When you give people their rightful voice back, it doesn't change anything." So that's what we're working towards, is eliminating NDAs for everything.
Because here's what happens with an NDA if you're allowed to use it. A company will say to you, "I'll give you a million dollars if you sign the NDA for the bad thing that happened to you. And if you don't sign the NDA, I'll give you a dollar." What's the person going to choose?
So it's like a bribery. But if you can't offer an NDA, what we're finding out is that the company is still willing to pay, probably with the hope that the person owns their own voice now and maybe they don't want to make it public either. But at least the power is now in the person to make that decision. So that's where we're going.
And by the way, nobody I've ever talked to actually wants to file a lawsuit. They just want to work. So I'm not advocating for people to file lawsuits, but sometimes it's the last resort. And for me, it was the last resort. And for thousands of other women I've spoken to, it was the last resort. They just wanted to work with dignity.
So I'm not advocating that we should have a whole bunch more lawsuits. I'm advocating that companies should get rid of these bad apples inside of their networks and just allow women to work in a safe environment. That is not that tough, but that will be a monumental change for that to happen.
Yeah, what a concept, huh?
So I have an idea for you. Maybe you've already done it and maybe you'll think it's stupid, but... So you know how the NRA has a scorecard where they rate politicians for A, B, C, D, E, F, and basically every Democrat has an F for gun control?
So your organization could create a scorecard rating system for politicians and companies. So Microsoft gets an A because there's no forced arbitration, there's no NDA clause. And some other company gets a C.
So you could rate companies kind of like Glassdoor meets NRA and you rate companies for their policies so that at some point you would think their recruiters would say, "Listen, guys, you got to change all this because we cannot recruit Thailand because we're getting a D- according to-
Guy, do you want to work for me? Because this is exactly what we are working on right now and what we're trying to raise money for, is to put out that exact kind of a rating system. You're spot on.
We believe that the millions of employees in America and across the world are entitled to know whether or not their company silences them.
First of all, we're the only organization fighting these issues in the workplace unbelievably at Lift Our Voices. But this will be the first of its kind report. There are a lot of other rating systems out there, like you mentioned. And there are even rating systems where the best places for women to work, the top 100 places, they might be looking at maternity leave, flex time, vacation, but nobody's looking at our metrics.
And so the point you bring up is that some of these companies that are well known or get good PR for being fair companies to women and to other employees, they might get an F from us because they might silence their people. And we think it'll be a huge wake up call to companies who want to get on board.
It's kind of a black and white variable, right? So you get the employment contract from the company and it either says that or it doesn't. There's no discussion about rating systems. If there's an NDA clause, there's an NDA clause. You flunked it.
Yes, but let me give you a little loophole because this is what I've learned from all the legislative work that I've been doing over the last five years, is that once you pass a law, people will always try and figure out what the next loophole is to still get away with stuff, right?
So the loophole with arbitration is that some companies get away with saying that they don't force their employees into arbitration because they offer a thirty-day opt-out period from your first day of employment till thirty days.
So in other words, in the first thirty days, you have the ability to go to HR and say, "I don't want to opt in to forced arbitration if ten years from now a bad thing happens to me at work." All right, now let me ask you this. Who-
Yeah, I know. Who knows what forced arbitration even is, number one, and name one person who has ever gone to HR in a situation like that within the thirty days and has said, "I don't want to opt into arbitration"?
Name one person who's ever read his employment or her employment contract to know that.
I know. I actually did because I noticed that it was a change from my last contract. And I asked a lot of questions about it. But even somebody like me in my position, even contemplating a lawsuit, did not understand the negative ramifications of what arbitration would mean for me.
So yes, you're spot on. This is what we need to do to make sure that employees know where they're going to work and whether or not they wanted to be silencing. And also I believe it will make companies change their policies.
If this podcasting thing doesn't work out, I'll be sending you a link to my LinkedIn profile, okay?
All right. Maybe we'll hire you as a consultant.
I want you to know I work for a woman who's half my age right now at Canva, so they go.
Dare I even asked this question, but what do you think of our Supreme Court these days?
As a journalist, I'm not supposed to have opinions on these things.
Oh, come on!
No, I know. You're never supposed to say who you voted for and all that kind of a stuff when you're a journalist. And actually just for the record, I'm a registered independent, because first of all, that's what I believe, but also I think that it's really important as a journalist to be independent in that way.
What I'll say about the Supreme Court is that I think it has a lot of people reexamining whether or not these should be lifetime appointments, number one. And I think it has a lot of people reexamining whether or not there should be time limits before a president is leaving office where they cannot make an appointment if somebody dies or passes away.
I think there are a lot of things that we have found out now that both sides do. They try to ram somebody in quickly before an election or something like that. But I think that we should be, first of all, examining the lifetime appointments or maybe that there's an age where there has to be retirement.
Yeah, that's about all I want to say on it other than I'll just add in what I put out on social media, is that it's unbelievable that I am doing the kind of work I'm doing to make change for women, better change. And at the same time, my nineteen-year old daughter may have less rights than I have had. That's crazy.
That's bizarre crazy, yes, yes. It's very interesting. A minute ago you defined yourself as a journalist as opposed to an evangelist for women's rights and meritocracy and open, fair, pleasant workplaces.
So you still look at yourself as a journalist?
Oh yeah. And I wear a lot of hats. When I really want to freak my husband out, I tell him I'm going to still go to law school.
But no, look, I was a journalist on a daily show for thirty plus years. Since my lawsuit at Fox, I've done a lot of different journalism projects. I did a podcast, I did some documentaries for A&E.
I worked for People Magazine Television. I'm actually about to announce another television deal relatively soon. So yes, I'm still dipping my toes in the career that I am skilled at. But yes, I'm very much an advocate as well. I now run a nonprofit, Lift Our Voices.
And I am an advocate for women's rights and any other disenfranchised group in the workplace to be treated fairly.
Gretchen, I for one, see you more as a newsmaker than a news reporter. And may I just go on the record that way?
Thank you. I appreciate that. But you know what they always say about journalists, you're never supposed to become the news. On July sixth, 2016, I did become the news, but I've taken full advantage of all of that to try and make the world better. And I'm incredibly proud of that.
I think that horse is out of the barn. You mentioned a few minutes ago HR departments. And you went over it at a fast pace. I want to return to it because I think many people think that HR departments are on the side of the employee and legal departments are on the side of the employee.
So when you get harassed or something, you go to HR and they fix it, meaning they take care of the harasser. But that's not exactly the sentiment you expressed here. So how should people view HR departments?
Yeah, I'm sure there's a lot of wonderful people who work in HR. And this is not a knock on them, it's a knock on the system. There is no way that there's not a conflict of interest with HR hearing these kinds of complaints because they get their paycheck from the top.
And if the harasser especially is the CEO, you're doomed. HR is never going to side with you. And the reality is, unfortunately, that HR probably isn't going to side with you even if your harasser is a low level employee for two reasons. You probably have one of those silencing clauses in your contract, so you're immediately going to be put into secrecy and HR's going to be like, "Phew, we will never hear from this person ever again."
And the second thing is the culture of the way we handle this. Why do we have that mentality? Why do we allow this to continue? That when a person has the courage to come forward, we immediately figure out how to try and get rid of them. That is the system that we are in.
So it's not necessarily that HR people are bad people or that they wish Ill upon people who have courage, but the system and the way we've done this is that, "We got to figure out how to keep this secret and push this person out." So that's what we've been living for decades.
One of the reasons that the American public got so upset about the Me Too Movement in a good way, was that they thought we had fixed this because they weren't hearing about any of these cases. But the reason they weren't hearing about any of these cases is because they were all going to secrecy, right? It was its own epidemic.
Harassment was an epidemic, but the silencing of these issues is also an epidemic. And what is the third epidemic, is the culture in which we still treat people who have the courage to come forward. We push them out and we consider them to be the problem.
So in my mind, HR is not the right vehicle to handle these kinds of complaints. There should be an independent office or independent ombudsman of sorts who hears these complaints that has no ties to the company. They don't get a paycheck from them, they haven't done business with them before. They listen to both sides, they figure out what happened.
And if in fact the person who came forward is telling the truth, the bad apple leaves and the person gets to keep their job. Because guess what? Now you don't need lawyers, lawsuits, arbitration clauses, NDAs. The person just gets to keep their job. And that's what I'm working towards, is changing the culture. And one of the ways to do that is to take it out of HR.
I will say they should be out there marketing PR for everybody because they've done a brilliant job of making people feel like they are their friend, but they work for the company. And I just want people to understand that, that they should never go to HR until they have consulted some outside resource about whether or not they should actually go to HR.
I just want to point out that you recently were a keynote speaker for an HR association, despite what you just said and your beliefs, right?
It was actually the most heated speaking engagement that I have had in the last six years, but heated in a good way. I think that it was somewhat brave of this organization to bring me in because not only do they disagree with me, they actively were lobbying against my legislation.
They brought me in and I felt sorry for the woman who had to interview me on stage because she was put in an impossible situation. I believe that everything I'm talking about is the right approach. And she was trying to tell me how great it was to silence people at work.
And it was really fascinating, Guy, because when I left that speaking engagement, I went back to the airport, and we were all still wearing masks by the way so it was hard to identify people, I had at least three people come up to me from the conference and say, "Oh my gosh, I 100 percent agree with what you were saying, and that was an embarrassing symposium."
Look, being a change maker is never fun necessarily and you're always going to have critics and you're always going to have people working against you. That's a given. But that's how you're making a difference, is when you actually have people who come up against you.
I hope I can change that organization's belief because they're the biggest HR conglomerate in the world. I hope I can change them because what they're teaching their HR executives is wrong. And more importantly, how they're treating disenfranchised groups in the workplace is wrong. I hope I can get them to see it more from my side.
If you ever need an onstage moderator, I volunteer. I'd be happy to.
Oh, thank you. That would be a good conversation.
We can be fierce together.
Yes, we can.
So after all the dust settles, suppose that a woman is listening to this and wants to know, "So Gretchen, cutting to the chase, what do I do? What should I do?"
What's your advice?
Well, first and foremost, when I wrote Be Fierce, it was actually a tribute to all the women who had come before me who never had a voice. And I intended it to be a playbook for people moving forward. So that would be my first piece of advice because it's like one-stop shopping to really find a guidebook about what you should do.
But my chapter four is my playbook. It's my twelve top points of what women should do. And I will just give the first three here. And we just talked about this with HR, but always consult a lawyer about what your claim is before you do anything at work because you want to find out what your rights are.
If your statute of limitations are still existing, you want to find out if you have a forced arbitration clause and an NDA, you want to find that stuff out. So that's number one.
Number two, document everything. Write it all down, send emails to document it. But here's the kicker, bring it home because I can't tell you how many people I've talked to who documented stuff and then when they got fired for coming forward, they couldn't go back to their office to get their evidence. So make sure that you start documenting and take it home.
And number three is tell somebody else. I know how hard it is to tell somebody, but if you can say or have emails proving that, "On this date, in this year, I was telling a person about this" and then that person can come forward and say, "Yes, that's true," it takes us out of the, "He said, She said" realm, which so many of these cases are in. So those are my top three points of what I would say.
And then I would just end with, it's always the personal choice of the person about whether or not they want to come forward. I can't tell them what to do with that because we still live in an era, even though we've made great progress, where you probably will be retaliated against, you probably will be fired and you probably won't work in your chosen profession again. Now I'm trying to change that.
But yeah, it's a huge decision. But I got to tell you Guy, some people finally like me, you come to your wit's end and you're like, "I want to get on the other side of the fence of this. I want to be a change maker. And I'm willing to sacrifice whatever it might be to make the world a better place and it's a personal decision."
And you are probably asked this at every single speech, but there are people listening to this who are going to say, "What if you're not Gretchen Carlson? You're a single mom. Can I still be fierce and be bold? Can I go fight that?"
Yeah. And that's who I'm speaking to and that's why I'm doing the work I'm doing because I understand that I have the resources and the platform that so many other people don't and that's why I'm doing this work. I totally understand that completely, and that's why I say it's such an impossible decision.
Quite honestly, a single mom working on a minimum wage job, she cannot literally afford to come forward because she can't afford to lose her job as a result. And that's why I'm fighting so hard to change the system so that she doesn't have to face that anymore, that she doesn't have to face the negative consequences.
That's why I'm doing all of this work. And so it really comes full circle about, this is not about Gretchen Carlson, this is about the millions of people that I will never meet who I am trying to help because they don't have any other recourse. And that's why I'm using whatever power I have and resources to make a change.
A few minutes ago you said something about an independent ombudsman not paid by the company. So who pays that person? Why is this person doing this?
The company would still have to pay them, but they would have no past relationship with the company.
What I mean by that is there are a lot of law firms out there that are on the payroll of the company and you often hear that the company did their own internal investigation with the law firm that was already on their payroll. That's not an independent investigation.
What I mean is you have to go out and find a company or person or lawyer who's going to do an investigation that has no vested interest in who's right or wrong. And in so many of these cases, you can pretty much be rest assured that those internal investigations that come from a law firm mean nothing.
Because if they have already done business with the company in the past, then that is not fair for that group to come in and be the independent person to determine what actually happened inside. So that's what I mean by it.
Somebody's going to have to pay the ombudsman, but it would have to be an organization that does no other work for the company other than hear complaints.
Please retell your experience when you talked at your son's school. And the bigger question is, what's your advice to young men?
Thank you for asking that question because the biggest lesson I've learned other than by talking about these issues, we fix them, is that we need to get to our boys young. We need to get to our boys at a young age before they develop their opinions about how they look at women. And they develop those opinions early.
And so I have spoken to exactly one boys school in the last six years, and it was my son's school. I should be speaking at hundreds of boys schools to teach them about these issues so that they learn how to respect women like they do their mothers and their sisters so that when they get into the workplace, they exhibit that same amount of respect for their female colleagues.
That's how we start to change the way that women are treated. And the second point to that is that men still run the majority of the Fortune 1000 companies, so we need them. We need them to help us to understand these issues and how debilitating these silencing mechanisms are.
Take them out of your contracts, help us, pay us fairly, respect us and promote us and don't harass us. And set the dynamic from the top down that you are not going to accept that kind of behavior.
People and men running these companies, they need to understand the immense power they have in their hands to change culture. And so we need them on our team. It's huge. Men and boys need to be invited into the conversation, and I do that every single day.
My last question, you probably interviewed more presidents than anyone. Do you have any patterns that have emerged from interviewing all these presidents? Got any observations about them? How you can judge them, how you can understand what makes them tick?
I think all politicians are really good at not telling you necessarily what they really think. And that is a pet peeve of mine because they don't dare cross the line because they want to make sure they don't offend the base. And I just wish that more politicians would really say what they think.
Maybe that's not going to happen in my lifetime. But I would just say that the common thread amongst all presidents or even members of Congress is that they stick to their talking points and they basically don't really tell you often what is in their heart. And I wish that would change because I think the American public is incredibly frustrated with that.
And you think most politicians’ hearts are good?
Oh, I don't know. I think that anyone who wants to go into politics, they should get an A just for that because it's such a rigorous process and your life is torn upside down in every which way, so I credit people who want to do that service.
But I just wish that we wouldn't be so beholden to these voting blocks. And I'm not being ignorant of how the system works. I actually understand it very well. But 43 percent of all Americans deem themselves to be independent, and yet we have no political party or funding for independent candidates. That's all I have to say to tell you that our system is broken.
And if we would start funding an independent party, I think it would make the other two parties have to get in line because the independent party would probably win. And by the way, I also love being an independent because I actually believe in compromise and that has become a horrible word on Capitol Hill over the last couple of years. Nobody wants to compromise except on my legislation.
And it's only through compromise that you understand as a businessperson that you actually sometimes get most of your stuff done. So compromise is key in politics, and that has just been completely lost. So call me up when we want to fund an independent party and I'll run.
Yeah, why not?
Why not indeed.
Maybe you're overqualified.
Thank you for that. But I always say, never say never about any goal in life because my life is certainly emblematic of moving in mysterious ways and doing things that I never expected to do. So who knows?
I'll vote for you.
Thank you. Thank you, Guy.
All right, Gretchen Carlson, this has truly been a remarkable hour. I appreciate you taking the time to do this. And far beyond that, I appreciate the courage that you've shown to address this issue in the way you have. You are truly fierce and bold.
Oh, I really appreciate it. Thank you for giving me the platform to explain what I'm up to and trying to make the world safer for everyone.
I hope that the organization that you work for doesn't force you to sign a non-disclosure agreement or a forced arbitration clause. If it doesn't, it may be because of the work of the remarkable Gretchen Carlson, truly a fierce warrior for women's rights.
I'm Guy Kawasaki. This is Remarkable People. We're on a mission to help you be remarkable. The first person that I want to thank is the remarkable Fran Hauser. She introduced me to Gretchen. No Fran, no episode. Thank you, Fran.
There are remarkable women on the Remarkable People team, Peg Fitzpatrick, Madisun Nuismer, and Alexis Nishimura. There are remarkable men on the Remarkable People Team, Jeff Sieh, Shannon Hernandez and Luis Magana.
Thank you, Remarkable team. Until next time, mahalo and aloha.
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