What the Bill O’Reilly and Uber Scandals Have in Common: Brave Women

Credit: fortune.com

For those who followed the snowballing sexual harassment charges against Bill O’Reilly with anger and revulsion, Wednesday’s news that the host had been forced out at Fox News felt like a rare moment of triumph.


Indeed, it’s tempting to see the network’s decision to boot O’Reilly--its highest-rated star and the face of a show that generated more than $446 million in ad revenues from 2014 through 2016--as progress.


Yet there’s no denying one simple fact: It took too long for Fox to react. The first lawsuit against O’Reilly was filed in 2004. And according to the New York Times, the network has known about allegations of inappropriate behavior by the host since 2002. The decision by 21st Century Fox--Fox News’ parent company--to oust O’Reilly only happened after an massive exodus of advertisers, sparked by the New York Times’ devastating investigations into the numerous sexual harassment settlements paid out over O’Reilly’s alleged transgressions. The controversy was reportedly drawing so much attention that Rupert Murdoch feared that it might interfere with his pending $14 billion takeover of European pay-TV provider Sky.


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And, as was the case with the removal of former Fox New CEO Roger Ailes, O’Reilly will be paid “tens of millions” of dollars on his way out the door, according to a CNN report.


The trouble at Fox News brings to mind another company dogged by allegations of sexual harassment: Uber. The ride-hailing giant is also being accused of turning a blind eye to the misconduct of “high performers.” According to former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, the company was willing to allow these stars to make life hell for other employees, as long as they continued to excel.


There’s also a common thread in what finally turned the tide in both instances: women who went public with their experiences, despite fears they would be disbelieved or retaliated against. Without Fowler’s blog post, Uber would not have faced the tsunami of outrage that forced it to open a public investigation. Without the women who continued to come forward to share how they’d been treated by O’Reilly, it’s unlikely that the Murdochs would have felt such pressure to fire their cash cow. And let’s not forget Gretchen Carlson and the others who spoke out against O’Reilly’s former boss, Roger Ailes.


Together, these women have proven that they have the will to fell powerful men and global companies alike. But let’s not make the mistake of thinking that all companies are finally coming around to the idea that sexual harassment is never acceptable in the workplace. We still need women who are brave enough to name and shame.


A version of this story appeared in the April 20th, 2017 edition of The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter on the world’s most powerful women.

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