Gretchen Carlson's lawsuit against her former employer, the head of Fox News, is stirring up the conversation about sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

After more than a decade with the company, her contract wasn't renewed. Carlson says she's being fired because, among other things, she wouldn't respond to the advances of the network president. She also states she was subject to sexual harassment from her on-air co-workers, which has been documented by Bloomberg.

In watching the video footage compiled, I was reminded of something I was taught early on in my HR career: This could have been dealt with sooner if she had more female co-anchors on that sofa. And more importantly, on her side. 

Sexual harassment: More common when a woman is outnumbered

A lot of the derogatory comments made by men in the workplace happen when women are outnumbered. The lack of female representation gives the offender the feeling of an advantage.

Some men even try to justify it by saying it's a compliment to the woman and she should be grateful for the attention. Carlson admits it was hard to speak up and she regrets not doing it sooner. Why did she struggle? It's likely she didn't have the backing of other women to support her. In fact, another well-known female correspondent who works for the network has publicly stated she's never experienced this type of discrimination at Fox.

Thus, without fellow female support, it's easy for even the smartest, talented, most accomplished woman to doubt herself and say, "Am I just overreacting?" And so the problem continues.

Sheryl Sandberg is right: Ladies needing to team up more

The new #LeanInTogether movement by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg proves the point: If we want to see workplace misogyny and sexual harassment diminish, women need to help each other land roles that enable them to come together and build a larger female presence.

We keep talking about the need for more women in the boardroom and executive positions as a way to gain power. But this is about women helping women at every level, in every situation. There's not just safety in numbers--there's power in it too.

Published on: Jul 12, 2016
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