A century after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote, the uncertainty that foreshadowed the suffrage victory presages the precariousness of women’s rights. “Finish The Fight!”, a rallying cry from the battle to win the final battle of the women’s voting rights movement, once again characterizes the ongoing struggle for full gender equality.
This will be the focus of Common Ground’s sixth episode. The guests will discuss the history of the women’s movement and the hurdles that remain.
Gretchen Carlson is a journalist who became an unlikely fuse of the MeToo movement after her allegations of sexual misconduct by legendary Fox News Founder and CEO Roger Ailes led to his resignation. A lifelong conservative once viewed as the face of right-wing journalism, Carlson defies political expectations as the spokesperson of a movement usually considered synonymous with progressive politics.
Carlson started in TV journalism after winning the 1989 Miss America pageant, reporting for several local stations before joining Fox News as an anchor in 2006. She quickly became a right -wing icon but her tenure at the network was controversial, with some praising her for prioritizing women’s stories and others criticizing her for trivializing LGBTQ+ causes and playing into racist theories about Barack Obama. Though she remains a conservative today, she has disavowed Fox News as “a complete disservice to our country.”
In 2016, Carlson alleged that Fox was punishing her for refusing sexual advances from Roger Ailes. Defying overwhelming odds, her complaints led to his resignation, empowering other women at Fox to share their stories and, in the words of CNN journalist Brian Stelter, “lighting the match that led to the modern-Day #MeToo movement."
Since then, she has helped women navigate workplace harassment and successfully lobbied Congress to pass the eponymously named Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act in March of 2022. She was chosen as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2017, and has won myriad nationally recognized honors, including the Sandra Day O’Connor Lifetime Achievement Award and the National Employment Lawyers Association Courage Award.
Reshma Saujani is the author and activist who founded Girls Who Code to give girls a path into the male-dominated world of computer sciences.
Saujani started the organization, which is widely credited with changing the face of information technology, when she noticed a gender gap in computer labs during an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 2012. The first American-Indian woman to run for the House of Representatives, she set out to shape girls’ self-expectations and empower women in science by providing coding skills to school-aged girls.
“If we’re really trying to crash through the glass ceiling, we actually have to tell women to take more risks, not less, and to really have them embrace failure,” Saujani, who encourages women to embrace imperfection, said in an interview with Business Insider. The non-profit, which began with just 20 girls, has gotten 500,000 students coding and has graduated alumni who earn computer science degrees at seven times the national average.
In recent years, Saujani has sought to expand her fight for gender equity to include women who work outside the sciences and by focusing on racial discrimination. Incorporating her experiences from her computer non-profit, she last year established the Marshall Plan for Moms, which tries to make offices and workplaces more conducive for women, especially mothers and women of color.
The author of four books - including a couple of bestsellers - about the workplace, coding, and not demanding perfection, she was The Wall Street Journal’s 2014 Innovator of the Year and has been included in Forbes’ Most Powerful Women Changing the World, Fortune’s 40 Under 40 and World’s Greatest Leaders.
Faye Wattleton is an iconic reproductive rights crusader who served as Planned Parenthood’s youngest and first African American president. She is widely credited for quadrupling the number of Americans served by the organization and turning it into a major. political force.
Wattleton took over the organization five years after the 1973 landmark Roe V. Wade ruling, just as the first organized backlash to the ruling was cresting. To combat the Reagan administration’s anti-abortion policies -- as well as the rash of violence targeting Planned Parenthood centers – Wattleton launched the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the organization’s political arm that remains effective today.
Within the first ten years of her tenure, Wattleton increased the organization’s direct-mail donors from 85,000 to 400,000, boosted its budget from $117 million to $230 million, and transformed reproductive freedom from a taboo subject into a national issue. She was such an effective, high-profile figure that even Henry Hyde, the Republican Representative from Illinois who championed the anti-abortion movement, paid tribute to her, calling her “a superstar” in a 1987 Washington Post interview. After resigning from the organization in 1992, Wattleton hosted a Chicago based talk show and founded the Center for the Advancement of Women.