Women’s empowerment advocate Gretchen Carlson shared her inspiring journey and her role in spearheading two federal laws at the 12th annual Women in Leadership Conference on Tuesday. More than 400 attendees gathered to learn from Carlson and other prominent female leaders.

Carlson’s Inspiring Journey

In her speech, Carlson recalled her upbringing, her win at the Miss America pageant, and her personal experiences with sexual assault and harassment. Throughout her career as a journalist, she has worked with both CBS News and Fox News, covering events such as the Murrah Building bombing, Timothy McVeigh’s execution, and the tragic events of 9/11.

In 2016, Carlson went public with harassment claims against then-Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, leading to the movie Bombshell and the Showtime series The Loudest Voice. This case took place 15 months before the #MeToo movement and, as Carlson said, helped create the platform for women to speak out against toxic work environments.

Carlson’s Advocacy Efforts

In 2022, Carlson’s advocacy led to the passage of two federal laws: the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act on March 3 and the Speak Out Act on Dec. 7. As co-founder of the nonprofit organization Lift Our Voices, Carlson continues to fight against forced arbitration clauses and non-disclosure agreements in workplace contracts that silence employees and prevent them from reporting misconduct.

Carlson believes that removing these silencing mechanisms will help move equity initiatives forward. “When we are more transparent and open about the problems that are existing at work, that’s how we make change,” she said.

Women in Leadership Conference

The Women in Leadership Conference, sponsored by the Oklahoma City University Meinders School of Business and the Chickasaw Nation, provides attendees with a day of education, networking, and fellowship. Speakers at this year’s event included Rachel Cannon, Sharina Perry, Danielle Ezell, Kelly Goldsmith, Michaela Marx Wheatley, Rena Cook, and more.