Episode 117: Pantsuits to Lawsuits
Published November 3, 2017.
Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.
Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.
Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.
Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman. On this week's agenda we talk about harassment and other workplace issues with Ellen Pao and Gretchen Carlson.
Aminatou: Hey Ann Friedman!
Ann: Hey! What's going on?
Aminatou: You know, not much, just getting off of many, many flights. I was just in Montreal, Canada, the most charming city in the world and I can't wait to go back.
Ann: Oh, hey. I'm just over here listening to interviews with men who were in charge of news organizations where rampant harassment was happening being asked to account for their lack of action. That's what I'm doing! [Laughs]
Aminatou: [Sighs] My blood pressure just shot up into the unhealthy range. Yeah, what a weird couple of weeks that we're having. People are having consequences -- facing consequences for this stuff.
Ann: I know. Of course not everybody is facing consequences but there have been a few notable examples of . . . like powerful creeps whose power is not already on the wane, who have had stuff taken away from them, who have like lost jobs, who have like -- you know, not just the sort of thing where oh, maybe people don't like you as much now, but financial consequences.
Aminatou: Yeah. I'm particularly enjoying what is happening at NPR right now where one of their heads of news was forced to resign for incidents that were both very old, and some that were more recent. But what I found fascinating about the whole thing is how the amazing women who work at NPR -- shout out public radio ladies everywhere -- they're so pissed on so many levels. One, on the simple level that they're getting scooped by other news organizations about stuff that's happening in their building, and also the fact that they've had to endure anything like that at all and how much having an unsafe newsroom really shapes the news and the coverage that they have. It's been so fascinating.
Ann: Right. Yeah, you're referring to the fact that the Washington Post broke the news that this NPR news chief, Michael Oreskes, was ousted for, you know, assaulting women essentially. And the interview that correspondent Marie Louise Kelly did with NPR's CEO about it is flames. Like it is so good. It is just satisfying to hear someone call to account and not be able to just send a press release of like "Sorry." You know what I mean? Like someone who actually had to answer for that behavior. And I believe she says to him like "Why did I have to find out about this through a news alert on my phone when I work here and we're a news organization?"
Aminatou: Yeah, she's like we're a building full of reporters. Also I think, you know, it's like definitely for listeners read some of the Washington Post reporting and listen to this interview that is amazing because I just thought that it hit so well all of the issues that we talked about both in terms of some of the women who were harassed, like them really saying how much it cut their ambition, the fact that they had to go through that. You know, I think that's one of the tolls of harassment that we don't really talk about. You're like yes, it's humiliating, it's all of these things, and it's bad. But here we are, we just wanted to work in news, and now you've diminished my ambition and you've made me feel so much smaller.
Aminatou: And especially at a younger age, like this issue specifically is so framed around work and your worth at work and really, you know, it's like you're out here looking like a fool having someone else cover your own work drama.
Ann: Yeah. The insults are really unending, but everything that we said earlier about how this is difficult and retraumatizing and triggering for women and people who have had these experiences is like -- that is all still very true, and so I don't want to pretend that we're just like having a party in the streets over here. But there is something satisfying about listening to people who are powerful called to account for how they use that power or didn't use it to protect the people who work for them, who they were supposed to be looking out for.
Aminatou: Ugh, okay. Yeah, so if you haven't guessed today's show is really shaped around workplace issues and we talked to two different women that harassment has affected and has really shaped their career and their path forward. I talked to both Ellen Pao who is both an investor partner at Kapor Capital and the Chief Diversity Inclusion Officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact, and the co-founder of the diversity consulting non-project group project Include. You might've heard of her from the news, and she has a wonderful new book out that we have repped in The Bleed, our newsletter. And I also talked to Gretchen Carlson who is a former Fox News journalist and media personality.
Ann: So what -- other than bringing very prominent sexual harassment allegations to the fore, what do these two women have in common? Because our views on the social impact of Fox News are pretty well-known at this point. Let's talk about why we're talking to Gretchen and then also why we're talking to Ellen.
Aminatou: Yeah, you know, it's so fascinating. I remember exactly where I was when I heard about Gretchen Carlson's harassment suit and honestly I couldn't believe it. I've been a passive Fox News watcher for a while. I'm really aware of who she is and, you know, kind of the space she occupied. And watching her go through that was very surreal, and ultimately she had the biggest role in taking down Roger Ailes from Fox News which is huge. You know, and something that so many people didn't believe was possible. And here's the truth, right? It's that we do not share a lot of the same politics as Gretchen Carlson, but I don't think that that is not a reason to listen to what she has to say because at the end of the day I think that she is a really hard-working person who tried to go to work every day and do the thing that she loved doing and ultimately she was able to lend her voice to a workplace issue that was really important.
And so I was reading her book and it's so fascinating to me because both in the book and in our interview she acknowledges the fact that she has tremendous privilege that helped her -- you know, really shaped her, but really shaped the fact that she wasn't afraid, or she was less afraid rather, to speak up for herself. You know, and I think that it's also a fascinating conversation in the sense that everyone feels the effects of sexism and capitalism. Even women who don't agree with feminism politically. But even those women ultimately end up needing feminism and are shaped by it and benefit from it, right?
And I think there is something really fascinating to listening to her, and I think that one place that there can always be common ground between women of different political affiliations -- and to be clear Gretchen Carlson identifies as politically independent -- is the fact that we are . . . there is bias against women in the workplace and a lot of times we're all screwed again and we're all harassed against. And so it's a really unfortunate sisterhood, but I think that seeing the ways that different people navigate that is really interesting and ultimately for me I really admire any woman who has the courage to speak up against harassment at work.
Ann: In her book does she recognize the systemic nature of this issue and the need for a systemic response? Or did you . . . maybe I'm preempting if you talked to her about that.
Aminatou: Yeah, I mean I talked to her about it some so I will let you listen to it and kind of make up your mind. But, you know, you and me, we're pretty woke, third eye wide open. [Laughs] And so, you know, I think that really the issue of what can you change for yourself versus what can you change systemically -- to me that's ultimately the key to all of this stuff. I would say that she recognizes that there is a systemwide issue and I think that she presents solutions that are both personal and also systemic. Like one of the things that she is going after really hard right now is the policy that basically puts in work contracts and NDAs that make it so that you have to go to arbitration against your employer. And also there are policy reasons for why we are where we are, right? It's like if Lilly Ledbetter hadn't done what she had done we would probably never hear -- somebody like Gretchen Carlson would never get to do what they wanted to do.
Ann: Lilly Ledbetter taking a case for transparent equal pay to the highest courts in the nation. That's what you're referring to.
Aminatou: Yeah. Yeah, and to be clear Lilly Ledbetter lost that case but because she had the courage to do what she did Congress and then ultimately President Obama were able to pass legislation that highlighted this issue, right? And so I don't know. It's like I've been thinking a lot about '60s workplace protections and how some of those are going away because of a certain party in this country. You know, and maybe places that unions could be stronger and places where unions fail and all of that stuff. But yeah, there are definitely policy solutions to this and she definitely explores them in the book so I'd encourage you to read it.
Ann: So yeah, the book is called Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and take Your Power Back. I'm skeptical but willing to hear. [Laughs]
Aminatou: You know, honestly Ann, I went into it that way for many reasons. I have zero love for Fox News. But even women like Gretchen Carlson deserve to go to work every day and be treated with respect and dignity and, you know, ultimately get to do the thing that they want to do. One issue that she talks about a lot which I found was really fascinating was the number of women who leave their respective industries because of harassment issues really, you know? And really having to contend with that. It's like wow, you didn't get to do the thing you wanted to do and is there a way that you can ever come back into that industry? Like I don't think that that's possible but I think that it's fascinating that we're talking about it.
Aminatou: Hello, Gretchen. Thanks for coming on Call Your Girlfriend.
Gretchen: I'm so glad to be here. This is a book about girlfriends. [Laughs]
Aminatou: It really is. All of the ways that we can be girlfriends really.
Gretchen: And be empowered and be fierce.
Aminatou: I know. What a wild week for you to be on book tour.
Gretchen: Oh, yes, I know. You know, I wish I could take credit for planning all these huge stories to come out at the same time but I can't. But I will say this, that I feel so emboldened and happy that women feel like they have a voice now to be able to put their names and faces to this issue. And it's not over. I mean there's new stories every day and I really feel optimistic that we're really going to have a cultural shift here. And you and I both know that doesn't happen overnight.
Aminatou: Yeah. I mean the thing that I was so struck by reading your book was just how personal it was. I think that we -- you know, it's like we definitely always know the names of women who come forward, the Anita Hills, now the Gretchen Carlsons, and how much -- and I think abstractly people understand how brave it is and what a kind of personal toll it can take for you. But I think that you're really good at weaving in these stories about being in the nail salon for example when the news about you is filtering out and talking to your daughter. And I think that that is something that brought it home in a lot of ways.
Aminatou: You know, of course you are a professional woman but you are also a living, breathing person with a lot of feelings. And just how destabilizing it can be to be involved in any kind of harassment suit.
Gretchen: Yeah, because up until now when I did what I did 15 months ago you were certainly still maligned for coming forward. I mean the reaction immediately was like "Well she's a liar. She's a troublemaker. She's a bitch, and she just couldn't take a joke probably."
Aminatou: Yeah, I remember that.
Aminatou: Because the first initial things that filtered out, I mean we tweeted -- I don't think you remember -- but a lot of people were accusing you of just not like . . . "She knew what she signed up for. What's going on here?" And it was just watching it unfold publicly when you were apologized to, you were finally vindicated. But thinking about all the ways that the cycle of it played out exactly like you thought it would. It's like oh, she's old. Oh, she's an idiot.
Gretchen: Right. "She's too ugly to be harassed, you know? She wished she was harassed." You know, "I hope you never find another job. Just go back to Minnesota and shut the hell up." That's really my daily Twitter feed. And I knew it would come out in force when I did something like this. But what makes me so just empowered now is seeing that women who are coming forward today, 15 months later, they're not getting that same reaction. Yeah, there's always going to be trolls out there. Okay, forget them. For the most part women are joining the movement and feeling secure and coming forward.
Men are coming forward. I've just been reading today about how male actors are saying that it happened to them too, either by a woman or another man, and they're feeling the courage to come forward. So it's like the floodgates opened and people feel liberated and they're like I'm not taking this crap anymore.
Aminatou: One thing that you have made really clear too is that for people who talk about harassment period, especially women, there is a really big chance that they will not work in their industry anymore which is what I think has been really depressing about so many of the Harvey Weinstein stories that are coming out, women that who went "20 years ago somebody did this to me so now I work in X other industry." Do you have any desire to work in TV again?
Gretchen: I do, but I have to tell you these past 15 months have given me great perspective and I'm so glad that I just didn't jump into an opportunity that was coming my way right away. I've had a lot of inquiries, but honestly I've been so busy. Again none of this could I have predicted. But I started hearing from thousands of women across the country. They were the impetus for the book. I wanted to give them a voice. Because it's not just television and Hollywood. We're talking about women who are waitresses and lawyers and teachers and members of our military. And I was blown away by the epidemic of this problem. So the book was really okay, first and foremost I want to get out their stories to honor them but I also want to give a playbook for women moving forward and how do we move the needle? How do we solve this problem? So that was the first thing.
Number two, I started a fund, Gift of Courage, that I'm financially empowering organizations that support women and girls. Number three, I have been lobbying on Capitol Hill to change the laws and the way in which we tend to solve these problems which are through arbitration and not an open court system, and the big, huge barrier with that is that it's secret. So this is why we don't hear about these stories. So I'm lobbying to get a bipartisan bill to change that, to even the playing field within the workplace. So that's my third full-time job. The fourth is that I have two preteen children at home.
Aminatou: No big deal.
Gretchen: Yeah, no big deal. I mean I wanted to be able, especially through this really tumultuous time in my life, I wanted to make sure that I was there for them. My daughter actually just came with me to my Los Angeles part of my book tour for Be Fierce because I wanted her to see in person mommy being fierce. So important.
Aminatou: That's cool.
Gretchen: And I've been approached to do a ton of different projects and to do traditional TV and also more non-traditional because the scope of this business changes daily. But I'm so glad I took the time to not jump right in. I've actually enjoyed watching television news from afar.
Gretchen: In case you haven't noticed it's been a little chaotic.
Aminatou: It's a little wild right now.
Gretchen: Yeah, and I actually have enjoyed not being part of the craziness on a day-to-day basis. It's been kind of fun to be an observer. And I am really, really excited about going back to work in whatever capacity it is because I've worked my whole life.
Gretchen: My whole life. It's all I know. Here's what I'd really love to do though, besides myself going back to work.
Aminatou: Tell me.
Gretchen: I'd love to get all these women who've been shamed and fired from their jobs for sexual harassment, who are not working in their chosen professions anymore, wouldn't it be great if companies said "Hey, we're going to make a concerted effort to find these women and hire them back. And do what they love." Instead of all this gibberish talk out there about hiring serial predators, giving them new jobs. Are you kidding me?
Aminatou: Oh, yeah. I mean Bill O'Reilly is back. You know, somebody that you might know. I don't even have the right word to describe how jarring it is to see him still have a platform and to see him still -- not take any kind of personal responsibility. I'm not a lawyer but I feel that if you have to pay somebody 32 million dollars and it's a pattern that constantly repeats itself . . . but to see how he is still allowed to go on TV, his opinions still matter, he can guest on his old network that he got fired from, and that's certainly not true of you for example who was on book tour and as far as I know you've not been back on Fox News to talk about your book.
Gretchen: Yeah, but that's -- I don't want to.
Aminatou: Well, that's amazing. I'm really happy that that is the case. But you know really the double standard there in what that rehabilitation and what the other side can look like, I think for as much as we're hearing these stories and some people are losing their jobs, the reality is that women are still punished disproportionately.
Aminatou: For coming out and just simply telling their stories when it's true.
Gretchen: Well I think it's horrifying and outrageous that any company would resign somebody who has a laundry list of allegations like that, and making it worse by putting them back on television.
Aminatou: I mean for them it's the cost of doing business, right?
Gretchen: Well . . .
Aminatou: It's part of the . . . it's well, this is what you get.
Gretchen: I think it's outrageous. It's the same thing as Harvey Weinstein. For 30 years, you don't get away with that kind of behavior without enablers, coverupers, and people whose only mission is to shut up the victims.
Gretchen: And if that's lawyers or assistants or whoever's helping you . . . this is why it's so important in my book, Be Fierce, to get people to stop being enablers and get them to stop being bystanders and become women's allies. I mean that is almost the central message of the book. How do we encourage everyone to be part of the Be Fierce movement? Because really the burden of fixing sexual harassment in the workplace shouldn't be only on women's shoulders; it's a men's problem.
Aminatou: In fact I would argue that it should not be on our shoulders at all.
Gretchen: I agree. It's their problem. And so imagine again how the dynamic would change within the workplace if suddenly enablers stopped enabling and said "You know what? Don't ever talk to her like that ever again." Stops it cold. Suddenly the harasser's shamed. They go into the corner and are shunned.
Gretchen: And the bystander who has heard about it, has had a friend tell them about it, or actually even seen it, has the courage to also come forward. Wow, that changes. Suddenly the troublemaker's telling the truth.
Aminatou: I mean I agree with part of that. I think that you're absolutely right in changing the shift essentially of what personal responsibility and personal behavior people have. But I also wasn't born yesterday and I know that personal behavior and responsibility -- you can't essentially trust people to do the right thing, which is what we're seeing play out over and over and over again. And this is where policies come into play. And I think that the work that you're doing to really talk about arbitration is huge. I've been thinking so much about Lilly Ledbetter for example. If she had been forced into arbitration we would've never heard about her and Congress would've never heard how pathetic it is that women get paid so little money and President Obama would've never championed a law that was for fair pay.
So actually having her go through a trial, even though she lost, was still monumental in terms of what we're doing. And I think the policy aspect there is really real. But when it comes to what men specifically can do to really be held accountable and what other policies we can do, that's something that I haven't quite figured out. And even in reading your book, I don't know how I feel about it yet.
Aminatou: Well, for one I -- you know, and I've heard you say this before, that our politics should not divide how we feel about sexual harassment and I 100% agree with you. But I think it's not crazy to say that disproportionately Republican laws and policies and conservative laws and policies are pretty anti-woman. So watching Betsy DeVos roll back protections against women who are assaulted on college campuses, or watching this administration try to force women back into not reporting these kinds of cases, that makes me really mad.
Gretchen: It makes me mad too.
Aminatou: And I hear you talking about working on a bipartisan solution to some of the stuff, but the only senators I hear about are the Democratic senators.
Gretchen: No, no, no, no.
Aminatou: So who are the Republicans who are helping you with this?
Gretchen: Okay, so I have been going to Washington frequently and I am meeting with Republican senators. I am incredibly optimistic that I will have a Republican cosponsoring this bill with a Democrat.
Aminatou: So you don't have one yet?
Gretchen: Well I'm going November 7th, so I've been there a lot. I mean listen, speaking of cultural shifts, have you noticed nothing gets done on Capitol Hill?
Aminatou: [Laughs] Well that's an age-old problem.
Gretchen: That's the understatement of the century. The idea that actually in my short time of trying to get meetings and speaking to senators, that I actually would tell you today that I feel optimistic, that's groundbreaking. Nothing gets done on the Hill. So here's how I sell it to them: it's apolitical, this issue. And if you have a wife or a sister or a niece or a granddaughter or any woman in your life that matters, do you want this to happen to her? And you know what they answer every single time? Of course, no. Okay, then help me do something about it. I'm not asking for you to move mountains. I'm not asking for all arbitration clauses to be thrown out. I'm asking for baby steps in taking the secrecy out of it. What's wrong with that?
In fact let's go a step farther. Let's let the woman who finds herself in this situation make the decision if she wants it to be secret or not. That would really give the power back to the woman. Maybe she doesn't want it to be public. But I can tell you one thing, if it's suddenly public, it changes the dynamic in the workplace because now other women know that they're not alone if it's happening to them as well. And arbitration is so patently unfair on its face because you don't get to call the same amount of witnesses or get the same kinds of depositions, and there are no appeals. And by the way only 20% of the time does the employee win, and the arbitrators are all retired judges and lawyers who have probably done different cases for certain companies time and time again so there's this inherent bias. And you never, ever, ever, ever can tell anyone you did this.
So you have all these sexual harassment cases going to this secret chamber and nobody ever hears about it. And the only way you ever heard about my story was because my lawyers found a loophole to make it public, otherwise I would've been in that same place.
Aminatou: Which is so infuriating. Do you think that if you had to do it all over again knowing everything that you knew you would take that job at Fox News?
Gretchen: If I was going back to be my person 12 years ago and the opportunity was to do something that I had worked my ass off for, which was to anchor a Monday through Friday national morning show, the same person that I was back then, yeah. Because I didn't have -- I didn't go there for political reasons. I didn't even actually . . .
Aminatou: Do you think that we can all say that though? Everything is politics.
Gretchen: No, but this was before -- you've got to remember this was 12 years ago. This was before Fox was really on the map in the way that it's on the map now. And I was doing the weekend morning show at CBS News and the idea and opportunity to be able to do something five days a week . . . I mean, listen, I'm not a naive person, but I honestly didn't make that decision based on "Oh, I think I'll be talking about this every day." I did it strictly on being a goal-oriented person and wanting to achieve the most I possibly could in the business. And, you know, that is honest to God why I took the job. And now I have new goals and obviously I can't get into what happened once I was there. But you can read about my complaint. It's public online.
Aminatou: Yeah. I love what you said about just being a woman who is goal-oriented and I wish that's how everybody would see women at work. You know, not as objects to be winked at or to support and assist. It's just some of us are really just trying to do the best work that we can do.
Gretchen: Well isn't that how we all grow up? I mean to a certain extent I hope you had parents who told you that you could be whoever you wanted to be, and I did. And I tell that to people when I speak now. If you've never heard that before, I'm telling you now. It's so essential hear that messaging, and especially when you're at a young age. And so it really was shocking to me when I got into the workplace and realized women weren't equal. Again it wasn't because I was nave; it's because I had been a really serious violinist as a child and nobody gave a rip if I was a girl or a boy. In fact some competitions you stood behind a screen. So they only cared about how you played, right?
And then in school, sort of the same thing. You know, I happened to excel at school. It was never about my gender; it was just because I studied and did well. And then I finally got into the real world and it was a shocking awakening that women got paid less, you know? I remember calling my mom right away and I was like what the hell is this? And she used to complain to me all the time, like "Why do you always have to call me and talk about women's rights?"
Gretchen: "Because this is what I'm living." And now that my mom's running a corporation for the last ten years -- she's 76 now . . .
Gretchen: She's calling me all the time. She's like "Oh, now I know what you were talking about all those years." So, you know, I've always been a strong advocate for women. I've supported women. I have helped a billion interns and young assistants who wanted to get into the business, because I had help. I mean I really feel like that's central to who I've been. And if I've been misrepresented in any way, this is really who I am at the core.
Aminatou: So it's safe to say that growing up, maybe, you did not have a strong awareness of the fact that harassment was everywhere? So was your . . . so your own personal experience is kind of what led you to have this eye-opening moment?
Gretchen: Yes, because it happened to me twice when I was Miss America in that there were actually assaults. That was the first time I experienced it where your whole self-confidence just drains out of you in an instant. I mean it's like all your blood just leaves your body, and everything you've built yourself up to be from your academic prowess to your violin talent to whatever else you've done in your life, feeling smart because you are, just leaves you.
And, you know, the one experience with the television executive who helped me out all day long doing cold calls for me and I thought wow, he's really trying to help me break into TV, and I didn't realize he was actually trying to break into my pants. So by the end of the day . . .
Aminatou: So maddening.
Gretchen: I know. He was on top of me in the back seat of a car and his tongue was down my throat. You know, I can still see and feel where I was in the car seat. That's 27 years ago.
Aminatou: I'm so sorry that happened to you, and I'm so sorry just how familiar it is for so many of us and how it's . . . when you talk about it in the book, the thousands of women who write to you because you were the catharsis that they could finally have. It makes me think of that over and over again and what would happen if we actually had a society where women were free to just tell their stories and you didn't have to reach out to a stranger that you knew from the television box because there was literally nobody else in your life who would believe you.
Gretchen: I know. And in a lot of cases those women hadn't even told their partners or their husbands ever. And I think -- I try to look at everything optimistically. I mean with those women they felt comfort in telling me because they knew I got it and they knew they could trust me. And that's why I wanted to honor them back by writing their stories in the book. It was really interesting because when I went back to them and said, you know, "I feel this sense of duty to put this book together now. Could I tell your story?" And I thought for sure a lot of them would say no. Almost all of them said "Would you?" I mean it was really amazing how they gave me a positive spirit about going through my own dark days at the time, that they wanted their stories to be heard through my voice. And that was so empowering to me, you know?
Again I just want to mention that a lot of people are now discussing, because everyone's talking about sexual harassment, "Well, maybe we shouldn't be with women in offices alone anymore." Or they're just, you know, "Can we even say I like your shirt?"
Aminatou: No, you shouldn't. [Laughs]
Gretchen: You shouldn't, but you know what? Let me be clear. Of all the women that I heard from, there was no grey area in the stories that these women told me.
Aminatou: Oh, absolutely.
Gretchen: They were so outrageous. I mean, for example, one, this woman wanted to get a promotion at a radio station and the guy told her to get up on the desk and spread them. Okay, there's no grey area there. That's overt sexual harassment, okay? It's called quid pro quo. If you do a sex act with me, you get a promotion. Illegal. So if anyone thinks that the stories of these women that reach out to me are kind of squishy and eh, I might not have seen it that way, I didn't have anyone reach out to me with a story that I didn't think was absolutely horrific and over-the-top. And everyone should be alarmed at that. They should be alarmed at this epidemic that is pervasive everywhere and we've let it happen as a society.
Aminatou: Yeah, just the idea that women are angry at men winking at them at the office. You know, that's what the real issue is. And not seeing it as just a continuum of disrespect for our professionalism. When I was reading the book I didn't get a sense that there were particular incidents or people that you talked to that really shined a light through like looking at the stories through the lens of race, perhaps, or class, and how those intersections make things a little bit different. I think that for some of us who are privileged enough to have families where we are well-connected or we get to do the job that we want or we generally are the dominant -- whatever, the dominant demographic at work -- harassment happens. But when you are a minority on other levels it plays out differently as well. Did you get a sense of that?
Gretchen: Yeah. I mean one of the things when we started to choose the stories we wanted to tell, I wanted to make sure that I showed a cross-section of professions and a cross-section of race. And in many of the stories we had to change . . . well, in all of them we had to change identities, in some situations race and geographical areas because we wanted to protect the women and also we didn't want to be sued by their alleged harassers in case you could identify who they were.
But you bring up an incredibly great point and it was something that really bothered me after my story broke which was I had the resources and the national platform to do what I did. Yeah, I had to muster up a hell of a lot of courage and it was an excruciating choice, but I had those two other things. How do I help the single mom who's working two jobs and being sexually harassed, who can't afford to come forward literally? And that really bothered me. So in setting up my fund, one of the things that is an offshoot of that now is the beginning to an answer to that question, which is the Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiative that I'm setting up for underserved women across the country, a nine city tour that kicks off in November starting in Dallas/Fort Worth. Three days of workshops for underserved women on domestic violence, sexual harassment, and how to have a voice civically and politically in your community. And I'm incredibly proud about this because these women can come to these three days for free.
When you are being sexually harassed or you're a victim of domestic violence, you feel like you don't have a voice for sure on that issue, right? But what we found out is you also feel like you don't have a voice in anything else and that your voice doesn't matter. And I want these women to know that I care about them and I want to help them and their voice does matter, and we want them to become civically and politically involved.
Overall women don't call their members of Congress like men do. And so even if you're privileged you don't call your members of Congress, right? So it's a lesson for all of us to learn about how to be more civically involved. But specifically I wanted to help these women. It's a start. So nine cities. We're doing Dallas, Minneapolis where I grew up, then we're doing Charleston, South Carolina, and then another six cities that we're in the process of planning. And if women want to sign up for this or if they want to help us with this mission they can go to aitogether.org and I'm really, really . . . if anything this is what I'm most proud of in what I'm doing right now.
Aminatou: That's cool. Will this also be part of the lobbying that you're doing on Capitol Hill?
Gretchen: Mm-hmm. I mean it's part and parcel, because if I'm successful on Capitol Hill that only helps other tentacle of work that I'm doing right now. But imagine if we could actually get something done with Congress that helps women.
Aminatou: Imagine. [Laughs]
Gretchen: Imagine. See, every woman I wake up and I look at this bracelet on my wrist that says "Be Fierce." So I have to stay optimistic. This is what keeps me going every day.
Aminatou: That's cool.
Gretchen: Because when you've gone through something like this, you don't necessarily wake up every day and go "Hey, I love this."
Gretchen: You need to . . . and this is why I was so fiercely honest in the book. You wake up some mornings and you're like well, I'm not sure I want to do this.
Gretchen: But if there's been one thing consistent in my life, it's that if there's a goal sitting in front of me or a challenge I go for it. And I feel like this is a mission that I had no idea I'd ever be on but it's one that I am definitely going to have success with for other people.
Aminatou: That's cool. You've written about your daughter being really aware of what's going on with you. What kinds of conversations have you had with her about both harassment and your personal story and just what it's like to be a young woman in the world?
Gretchen: You know, that was my main concern, like what the hell will happen to my kids? Will they be teased? Will they feel uncomfortable with their mom talking about this issue? How will that affect the way in which they grow up? And what I found out was I really underestimated my children because they took it so much more maturely. And of all things, my resolution was announced on the first day of school last year which gave me a heart attack because I knew it was going to be splashed all over the news.
And sure enough my daughter was called out at school to say "What happened to your mom over the summer?" And it made me incredibly anxious. But she came home and she said "You know what, mom?" She said "When I talked to you I was so proud to say that you were my mom." And from that day I knew that I had done something right. And later on, a couple weeks later, she took on a couple of kids who were basically bullying her. And she came home to me and she said "Mom, I told this one that and I told the other one this." And she said "I did it mom because I saw you do it and that gave me the courage." All right. Fourth quarter. Two minute whistle. Game done, all right?
Gretchen: I'm out. I mean honestly when you hear your own kid say that to you, proudest moment of my life that she would have in a short period of time understood what her mom did and benefited herself from it. That's what the Be Fierce movement is all about. It's about giving that gift of courage because it's contagious. Now my son? Same thing. I actually think it's more imperative that we raise our boys to respect women. Ultimately I think it's more important the way we raise our boys than we raise our girls, honestly, so that when they get into the workplace they look at their female colleagues in the same way in which they saw it all happening at home. It's crucial.
The other day when I was doing a TV show and I was out of town and my son texted me -- he's 12 -- he said "Mom, I think you did a really great job and you were so inspiring."
Aminatou: That's cool.
Gretchen: It's cool, you know? I mean . . .
Aminatou: Teenagers who like you. I'm not over this. [Laughs]
Gretchen: Well no, no, no. They also say bad things to me. They are human as well. You know, mom's not always their favorite person when I'm asking them to practice their piano. But anyway, I mean, it's . . . you see life through the eyes of your kids and you see hope through the eyes of your kids. And especially on this mission, I don't want this ever to happen to my kids and I don't want it to happen to anyone who's listening. I don't want it to happen to your kids. And I don't think anyone on this planet would actually say that they would.
Aminatou: I hope that a lot of people will read your book, women that are conservative and women that are liberal, women who work and women who don't work, and really see that this is . . . it's unfortunately a sisterhood that we're forced into that we shouldn't have to be a part of, but that you say in the book really well, that silence is the most powerful tool that the oppressor has. And that's something that has stayed with me both in reading about you and all the women that came forward because you had the fortitude to do that. And everything that's happening in the Harvey Weinstein case and that's happening across many different industries. So if anything I hope that having more stories like this and having more books like this will make people realize that they're not alone and that there's power in stepping out and there's power in confronting people who do awful things to you. So thank you so much for coming on Call Your Girlfriend, Gretchen Carlson.
Gretchen: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Aminatou: Of course.
Gretchen: And I hope other people will pass along the gift of courage. Thanks so much.
[Music and Ads]
Aminatou: The next person that I talked to, as I mentioned, is Ellen Pao who is really somebody that if you work in tech you are 100% aware of. She filed a gender discrimination suit against Kleiner Perkins, the venture capital firm that she worked at, in 2012. I like to think about Ellen as the canary in the coal mine of a lot of the tech harassment issues that have come out. So if you didn't follow the trial there were really, really egregious examples of workplace discrimination like who got hired, who got promoted, as well as many incidents of sexual harassment and other super creepy coercive sexual behavior happening among colleagues.
The things that happened at the place that she worked at there's really no ambiguity about as far as I'm concerned. It's almost like watching some gross 1950s movie where some dude is just tapping his secretary's butt all day and then everything gross that can come out of that.
Aminatou: And Ellen was a really fascinating case too because, you know, textbook everything they throw at you when you try to stand up for yourself. Her personal history got dragged into it. So much of her marriage had to be justified and affairs that she'd had at work with people and relationships. You know, this idea that if you are not the perfect person to bring a harassment claim, it's because you've brought it upon yourself, right? Like who wants to go to work every day and be treated like a piece of meat?
Ann: Right, and how dirty the game is that that will be front and center. Like not your allegations that have to do with violations of HR policy or laws, like federal laws. No, no, no, it'll be about your personal choices and your personal life.
Aminatou: It was really, really, really intense. I didn't know her at the time but ended up going to a couple days of the trial and I remember those days in Silicon Valley so much in the sense that so many women were -- and women who did not know her were rallying for her. Because, again, like Lilly Ledbetter in her day, you understand how vitally important these issues are. And Ellen also ended up losing her trial but really opened up a world in which women in Silicon Valley are empowered to tell their stories and empowered to really go after a lot of these harassment claims.
And so a lot of the book and stuff is super intense. We're not going to go into detail. But you can read it in Reset. There are many articles. But I really, really recommend the book. It's really well done. And here's Ellen in her own voice.
Ellen: I'm Ellen Pao. I am the cofounder and CEO of a non-profit called Project Include and I'm also the chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Kapor Center and a venture partner at Kapor Capital.
Aminatou: And now you're an author as well.
Ellen: I know. It's exciting.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Tell us about the book that you've written.
Ellen: It's a book called Reset about resetting tech culture, and I started it as a way to kind of follow up with a bunch of people who had come up to me during the trial that I had and during all different parts of the last five years to say that my telling my story at the trial was really meaningful for them. And for me, I wanted to pull it all together into a cohesive narrative, something that was strung together for the whole story with context versus the kind of choppy, one-sided, legal perspective that the trial portrayed.
Aminatou: Yeah. I mean I loved just how the book operates on all these different levels, right? Like you talk about your own personal experience in growing up and how you got to work in tech and in venture capital specifically, and then also dive deeply into the trial that you were involved with with Kleiner Perkins that was specifically about discrimination and retaliation and also just offering what it is that you're doing next. The first thing that I think stood out to me, because I identified with it so much, was just being an immigrant daughter who did all of the right things. You know, you definitely did all the right things. You went to the right schools. You got the right degrees. Nose down, did hard work. And then you go into this field that is supposedly very meritocratic. That's not how it turned out for you.
Ellen: Not at all. In the beginning you could just power through stuff and you explain it as oh, that's just one bad actor. That's one person who does not get it and wants to have those all-male dinners or wants to ask me to go get cookies and they're just kind of clueless. But it's something just small and they'll just keep moving forward. Then you get to a point where you realize oh, it's a lot of people. It's not just one. And it's not just happening to me; it's happening to all the women, or all the people of color, or all the women of color. And we can't get ahead. And that's what happened when I was at Kleiner. I realized we all did not get promoted in that one round and almost all the men got promoted. So the women didn't get promoted, the men got promoted, and if you look at the women's investments, one of the other partners had taken the time to do the analysis. The women had much better investments than the men. Then if you looked at years of experience, if you looked at education level, on average we had much more than the men did. And it really was this glaring problem.
And then you look all the other -- you know, the thousand cuts that were going on to all of us and not to the men and you realized wow, this is a much bigger problem. And I can't just put my head down and power through it or work a little bit harder or find another person to try to get some help from.
Aminatou: Yeah. You know, when I was reading the book, and specifically one of the excerpts that was in that ran in New York Magazine also, I remember just being so shocked at some of the examples that you gave where, you know . . . I think that sometimes when you're a woman at work, you're just like oh, did that person do -- is that thing because I'm a woman? And if you're a woman of color, you're definitely like ugh, am I being paranoid? What's going on? But some of the examples that you gave are like classic textbook 1950s, you know, if you had to draw what discrimination was or sexual harassment at work, you cannot get clearer than that. Why do you think it's taken people, especially in technology, so long to realize that that goes on in our field?
Ellen: That's a really good question. I think -- you know, I try to look back at it myself. I didn't really think about it until I had been in it for several years. And it's partly because you do want to believe it's a meritocracy. You do want to believe that everybody's being treated fairly, and you go through the system and you see these problems and you think maybe it's just that one person. Maybe it's just this one day. And it's small and it's not every single thing every single day because you're doing things outside with other people or you're writing your own investment memo or you're meeting with entrepreneurs. It's not until you really lift your head up.
And for most people when you're struggling you've got your head down and you're really trying to get through task-by-task and it's not . . . you don't have the time or the energy to kind of pull up and put all the pieces together and connect all the dots to figure out wow, this is really much bigger than I am and this is really a huge problem. Because also you can't do anything about it, right? So that's a little bit demoralizing to pull up and see wow, this is a huge problem. I'm never going to get promoted. None of the women in my team are going to get promoted. We're never going to hire a black person. We're never going to hire a Latin person. That's completely demoralizing. So at least for me I put some blinders on and I kind of hid from it until I couldn't.
Aminatou: Yeah. And I think it also illustrates so much the problem with being the only one. Like if you are on a team where you're one of the few women or you're definitely one of the only women of color, how much of a trap that is, because there's nobody that has a perspective that they can share with you. But also you feel so much pressure not to speak out because you represent so many interests in that room.
Ellen: And nobody else can connect with your perspective. What was interesting was at Kleiner we hired more women but then we split them up. So we had one team when I joined and then we broke up into two teams then three teams then four teams then five teams. So it was really like one, maybe two if you were lucky women on a team. And that made it really hard to call out problems.
Aminatou: Yeah. Another thing I think that was so . . . that I really loved about when you were writing, and your experience in the trial, was the media story around you, around the trial, was completely gendered and completely unfair. You know, there were all these profiles that ran about you. I remember this one in Vanity Fair specifically that was so . . . it was like yes, the media example of this is not how you write about women in powerful places and it's certainly not how you write about women involved in a lawsuit for discrimination. And I remember going to a couple days of the trial just because I was living in San Francisco, I was working at Google, and it really felt like an important moment. Like I didn't know you but I knew this was really important. And I was not a media person, went down, and I was so shocked by how many people I knew in the courtroom. It was just women taking off of work to come see you and to come hear what was going on. But so much of the response even during the trial was focused on that, on just are you the perfect victim? Are you the perfect person to bring forward a case like this? And now that it's, you know, it's been a year plus and change, do you think that that perception has changed?
Ellen: I just saw somebody wrote an article about how I wasn't the perfect victim again and they dredged up one of the old articles to show and prove it. And I was like oh my gosh.
Aminatou: They're like hi, a sexist person wrote this. [Laughs]
Ellen: But she wasn't. It was a reporter who was pretty knowledgeable. But I think it was so engrained and they had those PR people who are just pushing that narrative so hard over five weeks that it just lodged in some people's heads. And so you've got this knowledgeable, pretty progressive woman of color reporter who's still saying I'm not the perfect victim. So I don't know what it's going to take to change minds. I think having new people come in and share their stories and be more well-received, it's enough. I don't need people to think I'm this great person or this perfect victim because nobody is. But to be able to have people now hear other people's stories and experiences and believe it the first time instead of digging through their whole history and every single action . . .
Ellen: "Oh my god, she showed some anger here. What's wrong with her?"
Aminatou: Yeah, or she's not being expressive enough here or she's not responding in a way that, you know, I imagine that a stereotype of this person would respond. But it's maddening to me and it's something that we talk a lot about on the show because nobody is ever going to win that game. But I think that it also shows that unless attitudes change in society it'll be really hard to change those attitudes in court. The burden of emotional labor really that's put on women to prove everything.
But I think the other thing too that was really apparent to me from all of that is this is why it's important for everybody to speak up so that you're not the only one that's left standing holding the bag, because the reason that there were so many women in that courtroom who were not reporters, who were just civilians like me, is because your case was very relatable and there are more women like you in Silicon Valley and frankly in a lot of industries. So I think that you writing this book and opening up this conversation and really sharing a lot of yourself to give room and space for more women to come forward is really important.
Ellen: I hope so. You know, I heard from people in all different industries. There were lawyers -- there was a lawyer who pulled me aside during the trial, like going to the bathroom and she pulls me into the stairway and she starts crying about all of her experiences.
Aminatou: Oh my gosh.
Ellen: So there's something very deeply connecting about being able to read and hear about your experience and know that that wasn't you; that was the system working against you. And that you're . . . I think for a lot of them it was validating. It lifted a sense of shame around deserving that treatment, and realizing actually it's a systemic problem and it's not me and this is something that's wrong in society and I shouldn't be called too quiet or too aggressive and I should've been promoted. You know, all those things that happen to people.
Aminatou: Yeah, definitely. Can you tell us a little bit about the work that you're doing right now? You know, the work to actually reset tech and how that's going.
Ellen: Yeah, it's been exciting. So I started a non-profit with seven other women in tech, I think you know most of them, Project Include. We are working to try to convince CEOs to take a comprehensive look at their cultures and really help change them or build them into ones that are truly inclusive. And for us that means it has to be inclusive of everyone. So you see a lot of efforts that are targeted towards gender because I want my daughter to do well or I can relate to this person. But it's not about being able to relate to somebody or you're just going to be exclusive but with a few more people in it, a little bit, and your culture isn't an inclusive culture. We want it to be truly inclusive by including everyone.
So whether they look like your daughter or not, they should be included and be treated fairly. And then the second part is it's got to be comprehensive. So it's not just hiring some people and throwing them in there and hoping that they work out; it's really thinking about how are you building people's careers? How are you promoting people? How are you paying people? How are you choosing people for opportunities? How are you building panels in the events that you hold? How are you letting people speak and get visibility at all hands meetings? So really across every activity are you including everyone and making sure that everybody has a fair chance to participate. And then the last piece is holding people accountable, so tracking metrics, running surveys to see what your demographics are in every level, in every function, and also looking at who's getting promoted, who's getting bigger salaries, and then finally how satisfied are all these different groups? And are they feeling a sense of fairness? Feeling a sense of belonging or not? And are there things you should be doing to change?
Aminatou: I know that it's been fairly recent in terms of tracking those metrics, but are you seeing anything that's giving you hope? Because I'm thinking about, I don't know, the last round of disclosures, of harassing VCs. [Laughs] For example, that were exposed by the Times recently. And just seeing the response to that was also really disheartening. It was like are we still really doing this? This is again textbook harassment. There's nothing nuanced here, you know?
Ellen: Right. And it's so crude and it's so prevalent.
Aminatou: Yeah, it's so crude and it's so prevalent and it's literally when I think about the amount of courage that it takes for those women to build up to say anything at all, because no woman in the history of history has ever benefited from bringing forward allegations of harassment against her work. But do you think that it's changing? Or is it too early to tell?
Ellen: I think what's changed has been the public perception and the media perception. So most people now when people speak up are open and receptive and they understand that there actually is a problem. There is a problem of bias in tech and there is a problem of harassment and discrimination and retaliation. So when you hear a Susan Fowler story it's hey, this is not something that she made up; this is something that we can see is actually happening. And wow, the level of detail in the information is really helping us get a better view on it, a better lens on it.
I think we've seen some people get pushed out but we've see them getting replaced by people who look like them. So that's a change that hasn't quite gone where it needs to go and I think we haven't seen the full culture shift, right? So people need to actually do the hard work, have the hard conversations, do more of the firings and make sure you're making those hard decisions to get rid of people or retrain people or setup the boundaries so that people know what they can do and what they can't do in treating everybody fairly.
Aminatou: I want to go back to some of the book stuff. Can you tell us about your process? Like how long it took to write the book, any apprehensions you had about doing it, and what it feels like? Because part of it is memoir. It's like how does it feel to revisit this really not very pleasant episode?
Ellen: I had taken maybe it was like a year off in-between Reddit and writing the book and it was a time of just healing and kind of getting organized both in health and finances and home. So I was ready to write the book when the time came. I also did kickboxing for six months and that was really good to get out a lot of that anger and a lot of that emotion.
Aminatou: That's great.
Ellen: And that was Yishan Wong, the previous CEO, who had left Reddit had said "Oh, you should just do kickboxing." And I thought that sounded weird but I was like all right, I'll try anything, and it was actually very therapeutic. But when I started writing I had this awesome woman writing with me, Eda Calun (?), who we would meet for a few days and she would just tape record everything I said and she would ask some great questions and I would just be talking. And then she would transcribe all of it, and then we would go through and she would kind of filter out some of the stuff where it's like eh, nobody's going to be interested in that. And I was like well it felt good for me to get it out anyway.
And then she was really good at helping to put together the arc of the story. But I picked her because we had very similar working styles. Like every week we would talk on the phone once or twice and we'd trade stuff that we had written and I would edit the stuff that she had written, she would edit the stuff that I'd written, and we'd merge it all and continue going through this process. And it was just a great process. It was a lot of fun. Actually it was better than I thought it would be because she was great to work with.
And it took us I think three months to put together the first draft then we spent probably two months editing it and then we got here. So it was a very fast process. I wasn't working so this was what I was doing all the time, and Eda's a very fast writer so that was good.
Aminatou: That's cool. Do you, knowing what you know now, would you go through the entire process all over again?
Ellen: I would but I wouldn't recommend other people do it. It is hard. It is grueling. You have to really believe that you are right and that you're going to get to the other side. You know, it took two years to get to the point where people actually believe me. Actually it took five years, right? Because I filed suit in 2012 and it took two years after the verdict for people other than a small subset of people to really say oh, actually she's right. There is some bias in tech. There is a systemic problem. There is something wrong with the tech culture. So that is hard. It's a very lonely, hard road and you need to have family support. You need to have financial resources. You need to have . . . I have this guy I play tennis with every Saturday morning, having him to just hit the tennis ball with every week. All of that support, I've been super lucky and fortunate. But it's grueling and it's only now you see people who connect with the story and who feel like they can tell their stories, where I really feel like okay, it really was worth all of that.
Aminatou: That makes me so sad to hear you say that because it's such an indictment of our legal process but also the reporting process, you know? And of how HR is setup specifically in tech companies to never -- to always take the company's side. There's not a whole lot you can do in arbitration. All the arbitration clauses in our contracts don't help out at all.
Ellen: And then the non-disclosure agreements if you do decide you want to get the money for severance. Yeah, it's hard.
Aminatou: It's just, yeah, I don't know, it makes me angry. I don't have a more sophisticated word for that feeling.
Ellen: I hope that it's going to change. I know like Susan Fowler and Gretchen Carlson are working really hard to try to change the regulations and the legal system around the rules that currently allow arbitration and enforcement of arbitration clauses. But hopefully over time people will see there's a great public policy around it.
Aminatou: Yeah. One of the things too I thought was interesting about you and your case specifically is because it's about venture capital and one of the things that those of us who have been involved in talking about diversity in tech forever is the fact that nobody will claim responsibility for where the problem is. You know, everybody punts back to "Oh, it's the recruiters." The recruiters will say "Oh, it's this department." Or the companies will say "Oh, it's not us. It's the mandates that we get from the people who have the money." And it's just an endless loop where the buck stops nowhere. But I think that venture capital should take a huge chunk of the responsibility for how this is working, not just because their own diversity numbers are so dismal, but also because some of the most egregious claims of harassment that have come out lately, that also lays at their feet. But they are the ones that a lot of the times are responsible for agenda setting.
Aminatou: And do you have anything to say about that?
Ellen: At the end of the day it's what do you track and measure? And they're not tracking diversity statistics. They're not tracking whether people are getting harassed or whether there are complaints at their portfolio companies. They don't want to know. So they want to live in this world where they have these great conversations about growth and hockey sticks and rocket ships and they don't really -- and unicorns -- but they don't want to talk about here are the hard problems and let me help you fix them so they don't compound and continue into the future. And I think some of the hardest problems are around harassment and discrimination, but as you said their hands are not clean.
So I don't have a ton of hope for venture capitalists. I focus on . . . like Project Include, we focus on CEOs because we think we've seen some who are really interested in inclusion and really want to do the hard work. We've seen that they can have a huge influence on their companies and that's an area where venture capitalists have not made much motion or anything and in that vacuum the CEOs have a lot of ability to do whatever they want. So we're hopeful that CEOs will take charge and really put the work into building inclusion into their cultures early so as they scale it grows with them.
I know Google has had a ton of trouble and I think it's because they started focusing on it too late and once you get to be what Erica Baker calls that tanker ship it's really hard to move more than one or two degrees. But as a small, early stage startup, you make your team diverse from the very beginning and you make sure your policies are inclusive and you're constantly looking at it. Hopefully you can be a new kind of tanker ship that actually works.
Aminatou: No, I think that you're right about starting very early but I think that there's also, at least in my own Silicon Valley experience, I think there is a component of this where people really feel that there are no consequences. There are no consequences for not having women on your team. There are no consequences for not having people of color. Part of the reason that I left San Francisco is because every time I looked around I was one of the few brown people in the room. And I mean I've grown up in predominantly white environments but even for me that was ludicrous.
Aminatou: It's like I don't actually have to live like this anymore. That's a huge cultural problem because there is just a refusal to acknowledge in Silicon Valley that life can be different and it doesn't have to be. It doesn't have to be like this. It doesn't have to be so uniform. But I think unless there are repercussions at any level, nobody will care.
Ellen: I think for startups they're starting to be able to see things that the big company CEOs and executives are not seeing which is product failures where you've got next door, or every other post that I see is . . .
Aminatou: It's always racist.
Ellen: Yeah, totally.
Aminatou: That was my neighborhood where it's like oh, there's a Latino person on our block. And I was like well, does it occur to you that we live in a majority Latino neighborhood? And also there's nothing wrong with that.
Ellen: Yeah. And so I'm like report, report, report, and I'm like I can't use that product anymore. So I'm losing users because your product is enabling racism. And the same thing for Airbnb. The same thing for Google Search. Once you start seeing holy moly, it gets built into your product if you don't have the people on your team who can prevent it and make it more inclusive, you're not going to reach half of the potential users or three quarters of the users once the demographics continue to shift towards people of color and women. I think the smart CEOs see that and they also see I want to hire from a workforce that is as big as possible because that's one of my hardest struggles. So I want to make sure that people want to come to my startup, and they're not going to want to come to my startup if I've got eight white guys sitting around doing white guy stuff.
Aminatou: Always doing white guy stuff. [Laughs] I mean we've talked about it ad nauseam here on Call Your Girlfriend about how a lot of these isms really just are a huge lack of imagination. You know, if you purport to be into serious engineering and you can't figure your way out of a problem like diversity then I think we're in big trouble in general. Every tech woman that I know is excited about reading your book. I think we all think that we know the CliffsNotes and we know what Ellen is up to. But who else do you want to read this book and what's in it for them?
Ellen: I think the next phase is . . . like I wrote the book for all these women and people of color who also are I'm not a woman but I've been treated poorly in my experience. But now I'm thinking about I'd love to get CEOs to read it. Like people who are interested in learning more and who are open to inclusion and are trying, here's another perspective, a set of experiences that resonate with a lot of other people. And this is what people are feeling when they come into your office. You know, these are the experiences and the scar tissue that they have, so think about what you're doing, and here are some ways at the end of the book to try to be more inclusive and to think about how do I get people to work at their best, at their maximum capacity, at their fullest?
Aminatou: That's awesome. Thank you so much for writing this book and we'll be checking back in with you soon.
Ellen: Thank you so much for having me.
Aminatou: Thanks for doing it.
Ellen: This is one of the things I really wanted to do so I'm glad it worked.
Aminatou: Yes, and we wanted to talk to you so this is perfect. Thank you.
Ellen: Thank you.
Ann: Yeah, creeps everywhere.
Aminatou: The Aristocrats. [Laughs]
Ann: Yeah, creeps are fucking everywhere is the sad punchline. Like I don't even know. Systemic. Systemic. Stuff is systemic.
Aminatou: Yeah, you know, it's definitely the sad punchline. And one thing that I have been thinking about too is we always know the names of these women. It's like Anita Hill. Now it's Gretchen Carlson and Ellen Pao or whatever. And I'm so ready to live in the world where actually we remember those women because we're grateful for what they did and the names of the people who did all this awful stuff to them lives in infamy forever.
Ann: Right, or their names are the ones associated with bad behavior. It's not like Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice. It's like Clarence Thomas who got away with disgusting harassment. Or it's like Roger Ailes, not someone known for building Fox News, someone known for despicable behavior towards his employees. Yeah.
Aminatou: But you know, also, we complain a lot about how change happens very slow. Like Gina had that amazing analogy, remember, that she told us about change on a geological timeframe and how everything is super slow.
Ann: Oh yeah.
Aminatou: You know, but at the same time I just . . . I think that this is one of the hardest things that women face and just knowing that there are people who are really willing to just stand up for themselves, but really stand up for the rest of us and are willing to put it all on the line and lose it is something that's . . . it's been really inspiring, and it's also just caused for me a lot of reflection about how I use my own voice and how I want to tell the truth and just really the responsibility that you have.
Aminatou: And so hopefully, you know . . . hopefully we will have more of these women step forward to the point where it's not a terrifyingly intimidating thing to do. But I think about the Ellens and the Gretchens and I don't want to see them out on a limb alone anymore.
Ann: Right. And also just thank you to the women who have made that choice because I also realize that it is 100% a choice, right? Like to be the person who goes out on that limb is not something that I expect of anyone who has endured this behavior. It's not something that I think we should be demanding of them, at least not in this current environment. So when women like this do decide to come forward I'm very, very grateful for the choice that they've made.
Aminatou: Yeah. So pick up Gretchen Carlson's Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Back Your Power as well as Ellen Pao's Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change. Read it, be inspired by them, and let's keep the conversation going.
Aminatou: You can find us many places on the Internet, on our website callyourgirlfriend.com, download it anywhere you listen to your favs, or on Apple Podcasts where we would love it if you left us a review. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at callyrgf. You can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. Our theme song is by Robyn. All original music is composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs. Our logos are by Kenesha Sneed. This podcast is brought to you by the wonderful Gina Delvac.
Ann: Gina D! See you on the Internet.
Aminatou: See you on the Internet!