THE BLOG

Women in Business Q&A: Gretchen Carlson

06/15/2015 10:51 am ET | Updated Jun 15, 2016

Gretchen Carlson is one of the nation's most successful news anchors as host of "The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson" on the Fox News Channel (2-3 ET Monday-Friday). She was formerly co-host of the #1 rated cable morning news show "Fox and Friends" for 7 years. She's also a regular contributor to "The O'Reilly Factor" with Bill O'Reilly.

As a television host, Carlson interviews top newsmakers; from the President of the United States to sports' stars to celebrities. Her favorite interviews focus on the "real" people who make up the fabric of the United States. To honor being "real", Carlson was the first cable television anchor to do her show without make-up to showcase the importance of building self-esteem from the inside-out.

An honors graduate of Stanford University, Carlson was valedictorian of her High School class and was named to her High School's first ever Hall of Fame in 2011. She also studied at Oxford University in England.

Carlson's television career spans two decades. She was formerly co-anchor of "The Saturday Early Show" on CBS and a CBS News correspondent traveling the world, covering the G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy, the Timothy McVeigh execution, 9-11 from the World Trade Center, the Bush-Gore election, and many other national and international stories. She also worked as an anchor/reporter in Dallas, Texas where she reported and produced a 30-part series on domestic violence that won several national awards. Carlson also worked in the Cleveland, Cincinnati and Richmond, Virginia television markets.

In 1989, Carlson became the first classical violinist ever to win the Miss America crown and remains a staunch advocate of the arts.

Carlson serves on the March of Dimes Board as a Trustee and in 2010 received that organization's prestigious Volunteer of the Year President's Award. Carlson also serves on the Board of Directors for the Miss America Organization and is very involved in her church where she and her husband Casey Close teach Sunday School.

Carlson was seen in her first movie role in July 2014 in the feature film "Persecuted", a religious and political thriller and moderated the debate for the award-winning documentary "Patterns Of Evidence: Exodus". She will also be seen in the forthcoming major motion picture "Caged". Her first book; an inspirational memoir entitled "Getting Real" will be released June 16th, 2015.

Her most important job though is being mom to her two children; 10 and 11.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
From a young age I learned that putting time into something made you better; and that discipline has stayed with me for life. I started playing the violin when I was 6 and within a short period of time it was apparent it would be a serious part of my life. My career as a child prodigy - with many competitions and performances with orchestras -- also taught me to never ever give up. In the end I chose not to make the violin my career, but my parents were determined to find another goal for me to try and achieve using my violin talent -- and that came in the form of the Miss America Pageant where 50% of a contestant's total points were based on talent. Becoming Miss America in 1989, put me in a life-changing role -- speaking in front of thousands of people every day -- and developing my self esteem. But academics were also equally important. After graduating from Stanford and studying at Oxford, I started a career in TV news. But not at the top. I chose 'hard news' instead of 'entertainment' at the time, because I never wanted anyone to say I got a job because I was Miss America. Still, I had to work doubly hard at every turn to try to dispel the age old stereotypes that being blond and being a former Miss America meant I was a bimbo. It was almost if my resume of being valedictorian and an honors graduate from Stanford had been erased. TV news is not an easy career. Like so many others climbing the ladder, I moved every two years, to continue to pursue my dream of one day hosting a national morning television show. I worked in Richmond, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dallas before finally becoming a correspondent for CBS News in New York. At CBS, I got the opportunity to fill in one Saturday morning on the weekend morning show and was ultimately promoted to that job. From there I got a chance to host the #1 cable news morning show "Fox and Friends" for 8 years before getting the opportunity to host my own show "The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson" on Fox News for the last year and a half. Through it all, the discipline and work ethic I learned at a very young age have stayed with me no matter what goal I have worked to achieve.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Fox News?
There are many "paths" to try and make it in TV News. But I am so happy that my path has been one with a lot of experience. I worked in 4 local markets (Richmond, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dallas) before getting a job with CBS News in New York; learning how to report, edit, shoot video, write, investigate, interview ... everything. That was really important. At CBS News, I was a national correspondent so I traveled constantly covering the big news stories of the day. So now -- as the host of my own show on Fox -- I understand the hard work it takes for all of the reporters who appear on my show, the producers who put everything together, the camera crews and directors, and editors and bookers. I understand because I've done their jobs. I know what it's like to cover big trials, and horrible storms, September 11th, executions, Presidential elections, and so much more. And I believe that makes me a better host. Working my way up taught me how important it is to be a team player and how putting together a television show is so much more than just the host. I rely on my 25 years of experience every day -- and on all the people behind the scenes who are helping to make our show a success.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Fox News?
Highlights - working with great people. Challenges -- the automatic criticisms because I work at Fox before people even know me. In my book 'Getting Real' I talk about the constant attacks and how I reached the 'bimbo trifecta' when coming to Fox News. I already had the blond hair and the former Miss America title -- and now I worked at Fox. So -- I can take it, but I worry about our young people having to put up with that kind of garbage on social media, etc. And how people feel so entitled to hate -- just because.

What advice can you offer to women who are seeking a career in broadcasting?
I get asked this question a lot and I'm so happy to offer advice. I always say my door is open, because I also received help from mentors along the way and I want to give back to young people as well. As I mentioned above, there is no set path to becoming successful in television news. Young people can do it the way I did -- moving from market to market and gaining invaluable experience along the way. But with the surge of local cable news networks now as well, that's also a great way to gain experience but still be able to live in a bigger city of your choice. In doing that, you never know when a news director at one of the big market local stations might see your work. My number one recommendation though to young people is to get an internship while in college so you can really see if TV is for you. I've mentored so many young people who think they want to be on camera and figure out its not its all cracked up to be! (Its not all glamorous!) And just the opposite too -- people who thought they only wanted to work behind the scenes and determine they actually want to report. But most of all, young people have to truly do something they are passionate about. You have to feel that fire in the belly. And hopefully through an internship, you can gain enough experience to be able to make that decision.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Ahh ... the million dollar question! My major at Stanford was Organizational Behavior -- so I am ultra-organized which helps! I use those skills every day -- as the host of a national TV show, as a mom to two young children 10 and 12, as a wife, as a volunteer in my community and as a member of three Boards. I'm not a fan of the phrase "women having it all" because I think it puts undue pressure on all of us to live up to unattainable expectations. The truth of the matter is -- when I'm at work, I'm not giving 100% to my kids -- but when I'm at home -- I'm not giving 100% to my work. So I like to say I believe women can have it all -- but not all at the same time.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think the biggest issue is women is speaking up and asking for what men ask for. Problem is, women are perceived differently when they have a strong voice sometimes, so that makes it more difficult for us to be forthright. I'm hopeful that will continue to change as new generations of young men enter the workforce as well. In my book 'Getting Real' I say I work for my daughter, but more importantly for my son -- so when he enters the real world -- he will respect his female colleagues as much as he did his own mom. But I also feel women leaving the workplace to start families makes it more difficult for more women to get into higher level positions too.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I've been blessed with so many great bosses -- both men and women -- who took the time to develop my skills and make me a better reporter and/or anchor on TV. My female boss in VA threw me into covering politics when I had very little experience, but that sink or swim mentality was so beneficial. My male boss in Cincinnati told me he wanted me to report the news -- showing the same amount of passion as when I played the violin! Now that was something I could relate to! My female boss in Dallas believed enough in me to assign me a 30-part series on domestic violence which was risky in and of itself -- but life changing for me because of what I learned. In my personal life, my mom was my best friend and partner in almost any goal I tried to achieve. Every night when she put me to bed she would tell me I could be anything I wanted to be -- and that helped to give me self esteem that has stayed with me for life.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
My mom for always believing in me and helping me achieve my goals. And in general I admire all women who have broken barriers. One example from the TV world is Barbara Walters who stands out as a trailblazer and paving the way for all the rest of us. I attended her going away party on "The View" last spring with 25 other women in media, all of whom had much to thank her for.

What do you want to personally and professionally accomplish in the next year?
Personally -- want to meet as many people as possible on my book tour for 'Getting Real'. Professionally - want to interview every Presidential candidate.