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NOTEBOOK: ‘It’s on all of us to end the silence’


Gretchen Carlson came to Des Moines with a strong message for men and women in the workplace who face harassment: Take back your power.

The author and former TV journalist was the keynote speaker at the Oct. 26 Iowa Women Lead Change Central Iowa conference. Her address seemed particularly timely given the many recent headlines about workplace sexual harassment. IWLC Chief Executive Tiffany O’Donnell said more participants attended this conference, no doubt because of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Uber and other major executives. 

For those unfamiliar with her, Carlson in the summer of 2016 left Fox News and filed a headline-making lawsuit against former boss Roger Ailes, alleging he had kicked her off her program after she refused his sexual advances. The lawsuit was later settled, and Fox News offered an apology to her. Other women also came forward after she did, alleging that Ailes had harassed them.

Unfortunately, Carlson shared, that wasn’t her first case of being sexually harassed. She told the hundreds attending at Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center that she had faced harassment as Miss America and as a TV reporter earlier in her career. For instance, a co-worker asked her if she enjoyed it when he put a microphone on her clothing and touched her breasts. At the time, she was trapped in a car with that male co-worker. No smartphones back then to call for help. She said she considered how she could open the car door to safely roll out and get out of the situation.

But her message went beyond sharing her past. She offered hard realities and steps to take, including:

  • Most women who report sexual harassment don’t work in their chosen fields again. She challenges employers to rehire those women.
  • 71 percent of sexual harassment cases are not reported. Few co-workers report incidents they see.
  • What steps should you take if you are harassed (and this was addressed to women and men)? Document. Know company policies and call lawyers. Tell two trusted colleagues.
  • What can business leaders and workers do going forward? Turn bystanders into allies. Know the law.

“It’s on all of us to end the silence,” she said.


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