Katie Couric came to TCA to talk about her NatGeo series America Inside Out With Katie Couric premiering in April, in which she looks at people shaping conversation about hot-button topics today. Topics, she said, will include Confederate monuments in America, the weaponization of political correctness, gender equality and sexual harassment, the Muslim community, and “white working class anxiety.”
Saturday’s Q&A was all about sexual harassment, though Couric was not asked any questions during the session specifically about the sacking of her longtime Today show co-host Matt Lauer over what NBC News called credible claims by former co-workers.
One TV critics wondered if the Hollywood angle was getting so/too much play because of its celebrity angle.
“You mean they’re not as pretty?” panelist Kara Swisher said of other harassment victims. Recode co-founder Swisher has been leading the conversation about harassment in Silicon Valley; she acknowledged the problem may not be as severe in other walks, while making note of Uber founder Travis Kalanick’s ouster from the “toxic waste dump he created” for which she said he has yet to take responsibility and exited a billionaire.
Couric noted some stats about the number of women who leave the tech world and while that industry’s cozy storyline had been that those women had trouble managing life-work balance, it’s more often about the toxic work environment.
Couric predicted the harassment stories of “blue collar and pink collar workers” will be told increasingly, though it’s unclear if she thought it would make the front page of the New York Times, as did its report on Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein that’s credited with opening the floodgate in Hollywood.
To that point, Hidden Figures screenwriter Allison Schroeder said female execs in Hollywood tend to leave because they decide it’s not worth it, learn to “muzzle your voice,” and “don’t say anything, play along.”
Couric did not discuss any blue or pink collar workers she had interviewed, but did say she had interviewed Elisabeth Moss, who talked about how women get blackballed in her industry where business opportunities come from who you know, so if you “piss someone off” or rebuff someone’s advances, you wind up “marginalized.”
Schroeder mentioned she once had been pegged as “cold and unfriendly” on a set because she rebuffed a grip who she said propositioned her.
“Is that The Harvey Weinstein Rapey Playbook?” Swisher snarked. She then talked of having been told by a guy in Silicon Valley that they were going to have to “Mike Pence it” going forward when it came to women working at tech companies – our country’s Vice President famously said he will not take a meeting with a woman unless his wife is present.
“I nearly reached across the table and hit him,” Swisher recalled,” dismissing as “ridiculous” the backlash to #MeToo and #TimesUp.
The rules are simple, she said:
- Stop talking about women in the workplace.
- Stop grabbing women in the workplace.
- Let women talk,
“It’s not that hard,” she said.