Months ago, before Harvey Weinstein was a household name and #MeToo was a movement, a group of reporters and editors gathered around a large table in our newsroom. Reporting by our colleagues had already exposed abuses at Fox News and in Silicon Valley, and the Weinstein investigation was already in the works. We wanted to examine what happened to women with little power and fewer resources.
Catrin, a former public radio reporter, began talking to women in a range of industries: restaurant and retail workers, hotel housekeepers and construction workers. Susan began researching the plight of blue-collar women in manufacturing industries that used to be the preserve of men. We found that harassment was endemic in these places, from shipyards to coal mines.
We soon learned that Ford, one of America’s most storied companies, had just reached a $10 million settlement for sexual and racial harassment at two of its Chicago plants. It was not the first time the company had settled such claims, we would later find out: In the 1990s, a string of lawsuits and an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that combats workplace discrimination, resulted in a $22 million settlement and a commitment by Ford to crack down on the problem.