Conference encourages women to be brave, bold and brilliant

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Brave, bold and brilliant is the theme of the 8th annual Indiana Conference for Women which attracted 1,800 people to the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis Thursday.

Three keynote speakers, Gretchen Carlson, Retta, and Erin Brockovich offered tips on overcoming odds.

Carlson says she never intended to become a global voice against sexual harassment in the workplace, but that her life took a pivotal change July 6, 2016, when she sued her boss at Fox News.

"Back then there was no 'Me Too' movement, no 'Times Up' pins. There was just nothing. There was just me taking on one of the most powerful men in the world, all alone."

The boss was swiftly fired. Carlson won a reported $20-million settlement and became an advocate.

"I had no idea this was a pervasive epidemic when I filed my lawsuit, but I started hearing from women. It was dozens, hundreds, thousands and I realized that it crosses every socio-economic line and every profession. I found out that every woman, almost every woman has a story" Carlson said.

Time Magazine named Carlson one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

"In being honored in that way I believe it's is my responsibility to give back to all the women whose voices have not been heard" Carlson said.

"The most important thing is to document, because we still do live in a 'he said, she said' culture. You need to have that documentation as your proof, whether that is a written journal or whether that is a tape recording, it’s extremely important."

Carlson also urged women to follow company procedures for reporting. "Companies can and do dismiss complaints that don't follow their rules of engagement." Carlson wants to end forced arbitration. She believes the measures intended to unclog the courts, instead lead to "systematic silencing" of harassment complaints. Additionally, Carlson advises workers to understand their employment agreement and the laws pertaining to consent for recording conversations.

Jessica Parks is a 26-year-old professional working for a health insurance provider. She came to the conference looking for encouragement and tools for success.

"One thing that I liked that she mentioned was the documentation of everything. I think a lot of people forget that part...they don't document it and when the time comes, they have no proof of anything" Parks said.

Carlson also encouraged women to take offense. "If a colleague says something that makes you uncomfortable, you have got to tell them right away. 'Stop it. Don't speak to me that way.' "

Carlson details her experiences in her book "Be Fierce" a New York Times best seller in which she highlights that 70 percent of women nationwide who experience harassment at work don't report it.

"Me Too has just gotten started" said Laurie Burns McRobbie, the first lady of Indiana University. "This is trying to undo years and years and years decades centuries of treatment. We've torn a lot of stuff down. It's going to take us some time to build some things back, but we have to keep working at that and understand...we are in it for the long haul."

Carlson says being brave, finding your voice and speaking up isn't easy, but adds that worthwhile things never are. Retta, shared her journey from being a chemist known as Marietta Sangai Sirleaf PhD to a comedian and actress in Hollywood. Brockovich encouraged the crowd to be persistent and make a difference in your own backyard.

Indiana First Lady Janet Holcomb dedicated the conference to Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor who was unable to attend because of illness.

Billie Dragoo and Deborah Collins Stephens are Co-Founders of the Indiana Conference for Women and report a 30 percent attendance growth year after year. Allergist Dr. Chitra Natalie MD says her takeaway is to be brave and be authentic, even if you are scared. “I think it’s important to see that we are all kind of struggling with the same fears…so coming together and know that we are not alone, there is a lot of power in that.”

Learn more here: https://indianaconferenceforwomen.com/

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