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Powerful women lend their voices to help stop sexual harassment

CBS News has suspended “CBS This Morning” co-host Charlie Rose over claims of sexual misconduct, made by several women at his private production company. This story brings new emphasis to the #MeToo campaign, which is giving a voice to many women who say they’ve experienced sexual harassment and abuse.

CBS News’ Alex Wagner met with five women, all leaders in their fields, who say they’re speaking out to help others. The group she spoke with includes Jennifer Hyman, co-founder and CEO of Rent the Runway; Sallie Krawcheck, who before founding the financial firm Ellevest, was the CFO of Citigroup; Jane Rosenthal, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival; Elaine Welteroth, editor-in-chief at Teen Vogue; and Jessica Howard, a three-time national rhythmic gymnastics champion.

Howard, along with several teammates, accuse her former team doctor Larry Nassar of sexual assault while she was competing. All of them shared their experiences and offered insight on how they hope to help more women as they continue coming forward.

SALLIE KRAWCHECK: When I started work on Wall Street I remember one day leaning over a desk to work on a spreadsheet and turning around and there was a guy behind me pretending to perform a sex act on me with all the other guys watching and all the other guys laughing. And this sense of incredible shame.

ALEX WAGNER: You felt ashamed?

KRAWCHECK: Absolutely. How could I have leaned over the desk like that?

JENNIFER HYMAN: There’s a problem in that we’re kind of acculturated from the time we’re growing up. If this locker room talk starts in high school with men thinking it’s okay to over-sexualize women, like, what did we think was gonna happen 30 or 40 years later when they get into the boardroom? You think about incidents over the last year with Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, these are companies where not just those individuals were extremely powerful but everyone who runs that company in any position of power is a man.

JANE ROSENTHAL: Look, if you had women on the boards in those companies, you would not have had the kind of payouts. There’s no way.


Sallie Krawcheck and Jessica Howard

CBS News

ELAINE WELTEROTH: The majority of the cases even that have come out, in some ways, there are gray areas. It’s very rarely black and white. You know, I think there is this problematic definition of rape as something that happens in a dark alley by a scary, drunkard stranger. But the reality is that only eight percent of women are raped by strangers.

WAGNER: Jessica, I wanna get you in here. Did you know what was happening to you was wrong and did you feel like there was someone at the Olympics Committee, in management, somewhere on the team that you could go talk to help stop this behavior?

JESSICA HOWARD: You know, I didn’t. And I was in a position where I had to just trust this man. When news about Dr. Nassar started coming out, I realized I wasn’t the only one and more than 140 women have now come forward and USA Gymnastics has done nothing. And I really believe that the entire board needs to resign. And there have been changes at Fox. There have been changes at the Weinstein Company. And USA Gymnastics is just going on with business as usual and it’s hurtful to me as a victim.

WELTEROTH: While we have victims or survivors coming forward and saying, “me too,” we need men to say, “I did that.” We need men to step forward and to see themselves in these stories.

ROSENTHAL: I think that there are a lot of men that are in shock as to what they believe normal behavior was. Harvey is an extreme case that is a sexual predator. And for somebody to say, “I grew up in a sexually promiscuous time,” is bull**** especially for somebody who is in media and always looks to be at the foreground of culture and also politics.

WAGNER: We’re different ages, but we all know about Anita Hill. We know about Bill Clinton. We know about Bill Cosby. What makes this moment different?

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Jennifer Hyman, Elaine Welteroth and Jane Rosenthal

CBS News

KRAWCHECK: The proliferation of social media and media outlets. Because back in the day, if I had wanted to say something, what was I going to do? What’s different about this moment is we have a way to express our voices. What’s also different about this moment is women are rallying around each other.

ROSENTHAL: I don’t know who said it but Pandora’s Box is opened and Pandora is pissed. We have to band together and now our foot is firmly in the door. Now what do we do? OK, certain things happened then, but this is now. What do I do and what do I say to my daughters and what do you say to your readers?

WAGNER: Do you think that young women – the readers of Teen Vogue – are more forthright about what’s happening to them and their bodies than older women?

WELTEROTH: Yes, absolutely. But I think one thing I wanna kind of put forward into this conversation is that it happens to strong, powerful women too. So I think this — it’s important — this messaging about, you know, we need more women in these leadership positions, we need more women on boards. But it might still happen to you.

HYMAN: And that’s actually – the reason I spoke up because I was sexually harassed after already raising over $100 million for my company, after having a successful company and after I refused this investor’s sexual advances, he called my board members and told them I was being unresponsive and should likely be fired. So he tried to come after my career when I rejected him.

WAGNER: What was your reaction to that?

HYMAN: I decided that the reaction had to be 100 percent transparency. So the second I heard that that happened, I went to my board and I showed the text messages that I had received and shared the experience that I had had and honestly my board members were shocked. And we decided as a board to take immediate action together.

WELTEROTH: For me, as a woman who’s dealt with some degree of it, and funnily enough I actually saw the person that I’ve had an encounter with on the red carpet walking into the Glamour Women of the Year Awards. And in that moment I, an empowered woman, a boss, someone leading the resistance for this generation, I felt conflicted. Do I deserve to stand up right now? I haven’t addressed it with this person. I’m still wrestling with it. How many other women feel that way? How many other women who are standing up and retweeting are still traumatized and still trying to unpack what happened?

WAGNER: We talk about what happens next and we talk about that in the context of people outside immediate victimhood. But what happens next for victims? How do you feel since these allegations have been made public?

HOWARD: I’ve just come around to the anger. I really, really struggle. And I don’t know if it’s ever gonna go away. And I think that’s an important thing for people to understand that this doesn’t just dissipate the moment you speak up. It’s almost the moment that you speak up that you can actually start to process.

WAGNER: Do you think that you can get to a point where this isn’t the thing that you think defines you?

HOWARD: I hope so. I really do.

HYMAN: You will.

HOWARD:  Seeing you guys and just listening to everything that you’ve been talking about, it almost makes me wanna cry because I know that we can do what we need to do to make sure this never happens again so that not one person has to come up and say, you know, “me too.” And I am just very empowered by listening to you guys.

According to multiple reports, Jessica Howard’s former team Dr. Larry Nassar is expected to plead guilty to first degree criminal sexual conduct charges in a Michigan court on Wednesday.

In a statement to “CBS This Morning,” USA Gymnastics said: “Our athletes are our priority, and we are committed to promoting an environment of empowerment that encourages speaking up, especially on difficult topics like abuse.”


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