The Workplace Battleground

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Ellen Pao and Gretchen Carlson sit down to discuss sexual harassment and the flight to be included at the office

In 2012, before inequality in Silicon Valley became a household conversation, venture capitalist Ellen Pao filed a lawsuit against her former firm, Kleiner Perkins, claiming she’d been held back because of her gender and retaliated against for complaining. Pao lost her case in a landmark trial in 2015, but the protracted battle helped draw attention to an essential conversation about discrimination.

In 2016, on the other side of the country and in a different industry, former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson sued then-chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment and retaliation. Her case sparked a wave of similar claims from other women at the company, including Megyn Kelly, Laurie Luhn and Andrea Tantaros. Carlson’s contract with Fox had included an arbitration clause, which would have required her to privately resolve any dispute with the company. Instead, she sued Ailes directly and ultimately settled with the network, which acted on Ailes’s behalf, for $20 million.
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Pao and Carlson opened doors for others to report mistreatment, and both women cemented themselves as leaders in the fight for inclusion in the workplace, even as they battled sexist criticism and skepticism of their claims. This fall, Pao publishes Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change, which reveals details about her experience at Kleiner Perkins, and Carlson will release Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back, offering advice to victims.

TIME brought the two women together for their first meeting, where they discuss responses — both the ugly and the inspiring — to their stories. They open up about their shared drive to advocate for change and the importance of supporting those who speak out against harassment and discrimination. “Unless you’ve been in a personal experience like you and I have, you don’t understand the fear of coming forward,” Carlson says to Pao. “You and I sort of jumped off the cliff.”

—Lucy Feldman

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