I Was Told I Would Lose My Career If I Spoke Out

5 Min Read

Gretchen Carlson, 51

Journalist, Women's Empowerment Advocate

Gretchen Carlson's storm against sexual harassment in corporate America has been a welcome antithesis to the flow of news stories revealing predatory behavior from men in power. In 2017, Carlson famously won a $20M lawsuit against Fox CEO, Roger Ailes, helping to usher in today's #metoo movement. The talented news anchor and former Miss America has now penned Be Fierce, her tell-all about the experience, and launched the Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiative, which offers advocacy training to underserved women across the country. “So many more women have been given that gift of courage [which] I like to say is contagious," says Carlson. “We are passing along a chain of inspiration one woman at a time."
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?

I'm proud I opened up the dialogue in my book, Be Fierce, for a national conversation about this issue of sexual harassment because it's still happening with alarming frequency. Because of my story there are other stories being made public, and that is very gratifying. We need each other to support our efforts to be fierce.

2. What's the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you've faced in your career?

There is an assumption that if a woman doesn't immediately stand up and challenge a harasser, she isn't credible. But there are a lot of reasons for the delay, including trauma, fear of being hated, and wanting to keep a job.

Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe

You'd be shocked at how many women are fired, demoted or blackballed in their industries after they report harassment. The consequences of taking action are very real, and they can be career-destroying.

3. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn't" do it?

Reliving my experience in the book has been tough. I'm honest about how emotional it can get. When you've dedicated yourself for so long to a career that is so important to you, it's heartbreaking to have it yanked away. I've had many moments of tears and self-doubt—long nights with little rest. I've agonized over how to protect my children. I've had to deal with a constant barrage of disgusting Tweets and Facebook posts. But I've also been heartened by the tremendous support I've received, and by knowing I could turn my experience into something positive for others.

4. What did you learn through your personal journey?

After my case became public, I heard from thousands of women who said they were so glad I did what I did. People would stop me on the street or in airport lounges, tearfully thanking me or telling me their own stories.

Many of them told me that seeing the way I stood up for myself gave them courage to speak up in their own situations. I was so overwhelmed by this response, and I felt I had an obligation to not just walk away from the battle. I saw that I could use my profile to make a difference and to give others a voice.

5. What's your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society's limitations?

We need each other to support our efforts to be fierce. But we also have to recognize that building courage is a process. It's not like a light switch you turn on. We all have to work to develop our sense of self-esteem from the inside, and not be blindsided by external events.

You can be sexually harassed if you're pretty or not pretty, if you're strong or not strong, if you're in advertising or trucking. You can be harassed if you're wearing a short skirt or army fatigues or hospital scrubs. It's in the culture. I think that women collectively, especially millennial women, need to take the bull by the horns on this issue, and suggest within companies to have focus groups and dialogues involving their male colleagues. We need to bring sexual harassment to the forefront. Also, collectively we need to have each other's backs on this issue. If we do that and take it out of the shadows of secrecy, and it happens to a young woman, she will feel comfortable to say 'hey remember that pact we made' and then they go en masse [to report it]. If they do that, it's over.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.


When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.


Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.


If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.