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Gretchen Carlson: Time for CUs to modernize sexual harassment policies

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WASHINGTON – Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson called on credit unions to improve their sexual harassment policies during her opening keynote at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions Congressional Caucus.

Carlson’s 2016 sexual harassment lawsuit against the late Fox News chairman Roger Ailes remains one of the highest-profile events of the #MeToo era. The suit ended in a $20 million settlement and public apology from 21st Century Fox.

“I would encourage [sexual harassment policies] to be in-person training and not online because [the latter] really moves towards online compliance, and what I’ve heard from a lot of executives is that they just have their assistants fill it out,” Carlson told Credit Union Journal following her remarks.

“It needs to be in-person, first and foremost,” she emphasized, noting that it’s also important for organizations to empower allies, since those who come forward in support of survivors also often face backlash.

Noting that “no one is too big to fail”, Carlson’s speech paralleled the story of David and Goliath -- one that’s evocative for credit unions who compete against big banks each day. Detailing numerous cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault she experienced during her career, Carlson urged attendees that this egregious behavior needs to end.

Carlson’s remarks come in a year when credit unions are already grappling with how the industry adapts to the #MeToo movement. Earlier this year, Rachel Pross, chief risk officer at Maps Credit Union in Salem, Ore., kicked off a national conversation about harassment in the credit union sphere and particularly on the conference circuit.

Since leaving Fox News, some of Carlson’s efforts have been directed toward ending forced arbitration which can stifle survivors’ attempts to bring their harassers to court. That topic garnered a question from one credit union executive in attendance.

“My biggest concern is once forced arbitration – though I don't agree with it – is taken away, then we have all these women who don't have the money to bring these suits against these companies because the companies have incredibly deep pocketbooks. So how do we resolve that aspect?" Pamelya Herndon of U.S. Eagle Federal Credit Union asked the former news anchor.

Carlson said she has helped establish leadership initiatives and helped raise millions of dollars to move the issue forward.

She also delved into #MeToo’s backlash, including a 2019 study from Organizational Dynamics noting that some men are reluctant to interact with their female colleagues at the office.

The study found that 27% of men avoid individual meetings with female colleagues and that 21% of men would be reluctant to hire women for a job that would entail close interaction. More so, 19% of participants admitted that they would hesitate on hiring an attractive woman.

“What century are we in?” Carlson asked.

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