Women like Carlson and Anita Hill have made the workplace safer for all women.
Whenever I out produced my male counterparts they accused me of sleeping with the boss. It was devastating.
At the same time Anita Hill was defending her honor against a tribe of Senators and many Americans who were questioning her character and morality. It was even more devastating.
I remember watching Hill and thinking that no woman would ever consider reporting sexual harassment again. Why would they?
The author and her husband, the year she was sexually harassed at work.
Yet this month a brave woman spoke out against the man who allegedly sexually harassed her and at least 20 other women.
Gretchen Carlson was a popular news anchor on Fox News. Carlson claims her boss, Roger Ailes, both harassed her and then fired her when she refused to succumb to his advances. Although Carlson is clearly a privileged woman who is unlikely to be destitute without her job, it still took an amazing amount of courage for her to report Ailes and to file a lawsuit against him.
Ailes is a powerful man who could have easily worked to discredit Carlson. If others didn’t believe her, her career was in jeopardy not to mention her character. As Hill and many other women have learned when they have accused a man of sexual harassment, their sexual history is fodder for discussion.
Character attacks and a challenging environment at work have then victimized many women who have reported sexual harassment.
It is the rare woman who walks away from these scenarios without being scarred in one manner or another.
In fact, as I was writing this piece, Donald Trump (the Republican presidential nominee) spoke out against the women who have accused Ailes of sexual harassment. Trump calls Ailes, “A great guy” as he defended him against the allegations. Trump said (in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd) “Some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he’s helped them.” In other words, if a man helps you, you can’t call him out on his harassment or sexual advances.
Trump has landed squarely on the side against women and against a woman’s right to speak up and defend herself against sexual harassment at work.
Gretchen Carlson/Greenwich Time
Yet Carlson soldiered on and did what she needed to do. Not only was Carlson extremely brave, but so was Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of News Corp and temporary CEO of Fox News*, who showed a willingness to not only believe Carlson but to act on her accusations immediately. He fired Ailes in a rare and brave stance against sexual harassment. If only more men in leadership positions acted similarly, maybe we could eliminate harassment against women once and for all.
So does the power of one brave woman mean that there is reason for hope?
Can we eliminate sexual harassment in the workforce? Will others believe us when we report harassment? And will leadership take immediate action against those who are sexually harassing others? I certainly hope so in that not much has changed since both Anita Hill and I were suffering from sexual harassment.
Let’s honor Carlson’s courage by raising our own voices against sexual harassment of all forms. Sexist jokes at work are harassment, a comment on your appearance is harassment, and being touched in any way is harassment. Raise your voice and ask for the harasser to stop and report them immediately if need be. Also, support others who are being harassed by believing them and helping them to report harassment as well.
It’s time for women to be able to go to work without fear and the ability to do their work without harassment of any kind.
You can reach her at Lisa@smartwomeninspiredlives.com
Last updated on July 27, 2016 at 6:45pm EST