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An Inspiring Conversation With Gretchen Carlson

by Katie Pietrak
Gretchen Carlson speaking at 2018 Inspire Conference
Gretchen Carlson, acclaimed journalist, best-selling author, and women’s advocate, was one of the incredible speakers featured at our 2018 Inspire: Leading Authorities' Day of Ideas conference on February 23rd.

Gretchen Carlson has faced her fair share of criticism and backlash. But rather than letting it bring her down, Carlson has resolved time and again to “Be fierce.”

In this emotional and moving talk, Gretchen opened up about her personal experience with sexual harassment and the lessons she learned along the way after sharing her story publicly, including the importance of authenticity, perseverance, and courage, how to be a true leader by valuing your own self-worth, how to stand up against bullying or injustice, and how to fight for what’s right, noting that “authenticity is courageous and courage is contagious”.

Gretchen also reflected on the huge cultural shift happening today: She believes that we are at a major inflection point as a result of the millions of women who are finally coming forward with their stories of sexual harassment. This is really what makes America great again.

Finally, Gretchen disclosed the reason that she decided to come forward with her sexual harassment story 19 months ago: Her children. She believes “it is so critical that the next generation sees us being courageous and brave.” According to Gretchen, being fierce starts from within and when you tap into your authenticity, you will find the courage to make the changes necessary.

Gretchen Carlson Speaking at 2018 Inspire Conference.

Q&A With Gretchen Carlson

What do you think this cultural revolution means in terms of the midterm elections?
Well, obviously we have many more females, women who have decided to become politically active so I think that’s amazing because right now Congress is made up of only 20% female. I think that these should be issues that everyone running for office should be asked about, “Where do you stand? Where do you stand on the end arbitration act? Where do you stand on hiring more women? Where do you stand on paying women fairly? Where do you stand on putting more women in the board room? Where do you stand on how we want to raise our kids with gender equality?” Cause actually it’s more important about how we raise our sons than how we raise our daughters. There are a tremendous amount of questions that I think every politician should be answering and I hope that they are asked those questions. I feel this movement, in general, is going to have a lot to do with who is elected coming up.
You’ve been on the Hill a lot lobbying....are they listening?
Yes, so what I say to them is sexual harassment, as I said in my talk, is apolitical. You know, if you ask a politician, “Are you in favor of sexual harassment?,” I mean nobody’s going to raise their hand. So it’s pretty obvious that we’ve seen people from both sides, as well as the middle, fall. It’s been really enlightening to me to meet privately with so many members of Congress because almost all of them have shared with me either their own stories of harassment or their wives’ or daughters’ stories of harassment. It’s really proven my point, when I’ve gone to meet with them, that this is an epidemic and that if we don’t all agree to do something about it, it’s not going to get better. Basically what I say to them when I leave is, do you want to be on the right side of history or the wrong side of history? That’s why I was so proud to get these bipartisan bills because I didn’t want to just put any bill through, I actually wanted it to pass. The only way that that is going to happen is if we have bipartisan support.

What is your biggest fear? What inspired you to overcome it?
Other than jumping off the cliff 19 months ago, my greatest fear as I said in my talk is, “Did I do the right thing for my kids?” and if you’re a parent you can understand how important that is. From the stories I shared, I realize that that fear I probably shouldn’t have had but I did because my kids have proven me wrong on that.

What was the most challenging thing about your story becoming public for you? 
Oh gosh, all the myths that still exist in our society regarding this issue. That women aren’t believed, that they’re called troublemakers if they have the courage to come forward, that somehow we ask for it by the way in which we dress or the make up that we wear. But here’s what I found out, you can have hospital scrubs or army ‘fatigue’ or a skirt, it really doesn’t matter. It really has nothing to do with what you have on and my greatest hope, what I feel is the final tipping point in this whole revolution is men. In fact in my book, the longest chapter ended up being about great men. Great men who are already doing fantastic things to make women more equal in the workplace. What I mean by the final tipping point is that so many times men find themselves in a conundrum where they might know that this is going on but they don’t stand up as well and say anything. To me what would really solve this issue is when men stop being enablers and bystanders and start becoming allies, that to me is how this whole thing really gets solved.

What advice would you like to be able to give your 22-year-old self?
To take more risks. What I found out is that when you have that perfectionism gene which I believe is a demon, and you’re always trying to do things exactly as you’re supposed to that you don’t really learn about life and appreciate success like you do when you make a couple of failures along the way. One of those ways in which you can grow as a person is to take more risks because when you take a small risk and you realize that you jumped over the fence and you were still alive, then you do it again and you do it again and so you become fuller as a person and you become more unique. I wish I could’ve just helped myself not try to be so perfect at 22 and take a few more risks.

Candid and witty, Gretchen brings the nation’s most-pressing conversations to life with insightful commentary and anecdotes. Whether she’s discussing bias in the media, transformative movements in American society and culture, or evaluating the future of our political party system, Gretchen remains one of the smartest voices on politics and current events today. If you're looking for a strong, empowering, smart, and motivational speaker for your next event, consider Gretchen Carlson.

Want More Inspiration? 

To get a better feel for what we covered at Inspire, catch up on anything you may have missed, or learn more about the motivational speakers featured in our lineup:

• Check out our favorite moments from the event, including more presentation and Q&A recaps from the keynote speakers

• Subscribe to the Leading Authorities' podcast, Speaking Of, and listen to the podcast episodes we recorded with our speakers

• Follow us on Twitter @LAISpeakers and see the inspiring tweets and photos that attendees shared

Interested in learning more about any of these speakers or checking the availability or fees on a speaker for your next event? Call 1-800-SPEAKER or live chat with a member of our team right now.

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