In the year and a half since Gretchen Carlson settled a landmark $20 million lawsuit against her boss, former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, one painstaking question lingers: “How do we help the women without resources and a national platform?”
The Anoka native returns to the Twin Cities this week on a mission to answer that question.
“What about the single mom out there who is working two jobs and is just trying to make ends meet while also being sexually harassed or is in a domestic violence situation?” the former Fox News anchor said. “It really troubled me, because I didn’t necessarily have an immediate answer.”
Minneapolis is the second stop on a yearlong tour of the Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiative, which aims to reach under-represented women in cities throughout the United States who have experienced gender-based discrimination, harassment or violence in their lives.
“We are watching a cultural revolution unfold,” Carlson said. “I want to inspire these women to know that their voice matters.”
Using her own experience as an example, Carlson hopes to give women the tools and courage needed to speak up. She has teamed up with the nonprofit All in Together, a nonpartisan campaign dedicated to engaging women in politics. Through a series of free workshops Thursday and Saturday, women will not only learn how to speak out against sexual misconduct, but how to bring change in Washington.
“We need to make sure that the laws in this country are supportive of, reflective of and inclusive of women and the issues they face,” said Lauren Leader-Chivée, the co-founder and CEO of All in Together. “We need women to see themselves as having a voice in this country.”
For Saturday’s workshop, Carlson’s leadership initiative has partnered with the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. Speakers include Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, Rep. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, and former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch.
Carlson is no stranger to politics herself. She has spent the past year working with legislators to propose a bipartisan bill that strips away arbitration clauses in workplaces harassment cases.
Since then, Microsoft announced it has eliminated forced arbitration agreements with employees who make sexual harassment claims.
“Political activism works,” Carlson said. “This is historic that we can get anything bipartisan accomplished on the Hill and especially for women.”
One of Carlson’s biggest allies in the proposed federal law was former Sen. Al Franken. When asked about her thoughts on the allegations of sexual misconduct against Franken and his resignation, Carlson said: “I have not spoken to him since then, but I do know that he continues to support my efforts.”
Carlson also revealed she interviewed Franken extensively for a documentary that she’s been working on about sexual harassment in politics. Carlson said the documentary, to be released in May, “is going to be a trying docuseries that will show exactly what happened leading up to when he announced he would be resigning.”
Since her lawsuit against Ailes, Carlson, who was Miss America 1989, has reinvented herself as a women’s activist, speaking out against sexual harassment in Hollywood, politics, the workplace and beyond. She was recently named as the new chair of the Miss America Organization after a cadre of former Miss Americas called for the resignations of the organization’s CEO and COO amid a sexist e-mail scandal.
“I have my Midwestern sensibilities to thank for this, but when a challenge is in front of me, I rarely say no,” Carlson said. “I plan to put Miss America in the forefront of female empowerment.”