Lauren Leader Transcript

Clint Betts

Lauren, it is such an honor to have you on the show. You spoke at Silicon Slopes Summit a few years back, and I think it was the most popular and well received keynote of the whole conference. It really was just wonderful. I've wanted to talk to you ever since then for a show or a podcast or something. So I'm glad I had this opportunity. You wrote a book, was it in 2016, called Crossing the Thinnest Line. And the whole idea behind it was diversity is the most under leveraged economic asset in the United States. Do you still believe that five years later?

Lauren Leader

Yeah, it's still true. And actually in some ways it's more true now than it was then. So first of all, it's a pleasure to be with you and I'm so admiring of all the things you do, Clint. I love Silicon Slopes. It means a lot to me that it was a popular speech because it was probably one of the most fun things I've ever done. It's such an amazing venue, and to get to be on the stage, that giant stage at the Salt Palace was really, really special. But also a testament to you, Clint, that you wanted to have me there, and that you wanted to push the conversation around diversity and gender equity to this tech-heavy community. And to really get people thinking about the issues that I think are still not focused on enough.

And what I talked about several years ago, a lot of it is still very relevant. And on the economic side, just since you wanted to start there clearly in COVID, these issues have become even bigger. So the basic point is that we are leaving money on the table as a society when we leave out big segments of our population from economic participation. And obviously the biggest piece of that is women. For years, we've known that the gender gap in labor force participation between men and women just says sheer numbers of people that are in the labor force that are working or not, was a huge drag already before COVID on the economy, that the numbers of women who were already out of the workforce meant that we were leaving trillions of dollars in economic potential for the country on the table.

And that number has become much, much more dramatic in COVID because we've seen such a mass exodus of women from the workforce. Women who dominated a lot of the fields, are the most critical: healthcare, teaching, the services industries—which were all really hit very hard by the pandemic. Women have become increasingly, and I know at Silicon Slopes, you guys talk a lot about entrepreneurship. Women have been the fastest growing number of entrepreneurs starting new businesses of any group. But the COVID crisis laid bare what was already really obvious to people like me, which was that we lack the infrastructure in our society to make it possible for women to enter the workforce and stay in the workforce for the long term. And we, for decades, have missed the opportunity to make those investments, investments that many other countries around the world have made.

And as a result, it's really difficult for women to work. And then in COVID where you took out, essentially you eliminated the only reliable universal childcare in the United States, which is public education. When we eliminated public education as an option for childcare. I mean, we closed schools across America. We completely wiped out the one remaining source of reliable support for working women. And it's not surprising to me that millions and millions of women dropped out of the workforce as a result.

Clint Betts

Yeah. And isn't it interesting that a lot of private schools didn't get shut down. It was the public schools that got shut down. The pandemic has been so fascinating and horrible and horrific, obviously, because it's led to the amount of deaths it has and all that type of stuff. But it's fascinating to see what we prioritize. Like Costco can stay open, but small businesses can't, private schools can stay open, but public schools can't. And then there were all of these folks who were like, “Hey, stay home, stay home, slow the spread, just DoorDash, just have everything delivered to your house.” It's like, who's doing all that? Who do you think is doing the DoorDash-ing? Who do you think all this is for?

Lauren Leader

Clint, I am convinced that we're going to all look back on the school closures as the absolute most epic disaster of a terrible set of decisions we ever could have made for our country. Not just because we failed millions of children by making them stay home, and beyond Zoom, which we all know is just horrendous. It's like torture for children. Terrible. My kids just could not deal with it. And because we drained future potential from our society as well.

And that I think is one of the pieces of this, look, we're all trying to make the best decisions we can. And I think our public health officials really wanted to, obviously we wanted to protect our children and that's critical, but I think we're going to realize there were other countries that did not close the schools, the UK, for instance, left their schools open. In France, absolutely everything was shut down except for schools. The one thing that they kept open was schools because they understood that that was the most critical to protect and continue supporting children. And so, yeah, I think we're realizing now just how fundamental something as basic as schooling really is to the whole way that we function as a society.

Clint Betts

Well, what do you think we've lost too, aside from women and parents having to drop out of the workforce because who's going to watch their kids? For some reason that was never part of the conversation, which is so fascinating. That was never part of the conversation. You have working parents who now have to also watch their kids when the plan was to send them to school, which is where they need to be. So take that aside for a second. What do you think we've lost? Like a whole year of students doing all of this via Zoom and not interacting with friends and not growing. And let's be honest, it's not learning, like my, I have four kids. They did not learn anything this past year. I can tell you that much. What have we lost?

Lauren Leader

Yeah. Well look, I mean it's immeasurable and I think we're going to spend probably the rest of our lives taking stock of what we lost. This is the defining experience of our lifetime. And when it's not going away, it's going to be part of our lives probably for the rest of our lives. I think what I worry most about having lost is that I think we, for women, particularly the setbacks because of COVID are just immeasurable, and it's not to discount working fathers. And I know many of them really have stepped up and have been great equal partners in all of this, but there's no question that women have carried the bulk of the burden, because women have always carried the bulk of the burden for just the welfare of their families.

And in a crisis it's the women that are there on the front line literally and figuratively. I think women have lost a lot. Not just in terms of our progress in climbing the corporate ladders. So many women who even if they didn't drop out were just no longer able to put in the same kind of time and energy. I think there's a whole piece of this, which is what will continue to be in terms of women just not wanting to go back under the same kinds of terms, and whether companies are going to allow them to succeed in a very different model.

And I think the mental and emotional toll probably continues to be underappreciated just how heavy a load people are carrying, women are carrying, kids have been carrying. And the thing that I hope will come out of this, and I am optimistic about some of it, to your point, Clint, it's hard to ever say that there are good things that came out of this terrible ordeal, which has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and continues to.

On the other hand, I do think there's a bit of a reset that's happening that could be positive if we are willing to commit to it. No one I know, and this is obviously inside the professional workforce, and this is CEO.com, so it makes sense for us to talk about this. Literally, no one I know thinks they're going back to full time 9:00 to 5:00, five days a week work ever. There has been such a reset in terms of finally exposing the sort of colossal waste of time that is commuting. And the fact that we really don't need to be in the office all the time. And well, that's a blessing and a curse, some of us like to get the heck out of the house sometimes. It does enable a kind of lifestyle.

And I'm sure you've seen this in your community too, Clint, lots of dads who are saying that they're not going to go back. They're now coaching little league and showing up at soccer games and they don't want to miss it. And it's a non-negotiable for them. There's no money in the world that would make it worth it to them to get back on the 5:00 AM train every day, or get in the car and do a two hour commute every day and miss the stuff that they've now come to appreciate.

So I think there's a big reset that's happening. I think CEOs that think that there's going to be a return to the sort of, I'm now going to call it old school, jacket on the back of your chair, 40 to 60 hours a week, and that’s going to be your sign of commitment to your job there. That is a thing of the past. It's never coming back. You can't put that back in the bottle. And millennials had already said for years that this was ridiculous, and had been challenging CEOs, certainly like of my generation and older, to say, what do you mean? This doesn't even make any sense. There's no reason for this. So I think that's a really important reset. And we're going to have to really relearn how we build relationships in the workplace because of that. And when it is the right time to how you engage and how you engage in person and when you don't. So I think that's a win.

And I'm really hopeful, and I spend a lot of time working in politics. I'm really hopeful that maybe we will finally have the collective will to invest in the critical infrastructure, because it is infrastructure that enables people to work. And that is affordable childcare and paid leave. And no administration's perfect. I have my issues with this one for sure. But I do think they seem to be pretty committed to trying to get at least paid leave into the reconciliation bill. If that passes, it's historic, we are one of the only nations in the world that does not have guaranteed paid leave.

These are critical to the functioning of our society. And wildly popular by the way. And if we can't get it done now, I don't know when we're going to get it done. Even with a very closely divided house in the Senate, this is a moment in time where I think Americans understand how critical this stuff is and why it is truly infrastructure, that for our economy and our society to thrive, we have to see infrastructure as more than roads and bridges. It is all of the things that enable people to live and work and function and contribute to society. And that is a much bigger definition than I think we're traditionally used to thinking of.

Clint Betts

It's so fascinating to me how you can be so successful in the business world, and then you go into the political world and you understand it. I don't even think I know what reconciliation is.

Lauren Leader

Ah, okay.

Clint Betts

To give you a sense for like, I don't know that world at all.

Lauren Leader

Yeah, no, most Americans don't know. Look, so the president has this build back better plan, which essentially the budget and the priorities for the nation, and part of the congressional process is that there's something called reconciliation, which is essentially they take a whole bunch of pieces of bills and try to put them together and reconcile literally what both sides want. And come to some agreement with a very big bill, and in this case it covers infrastructure, it covers a whole bunch of priorities for the president and for the nation. But the reconciliation, it's a procedural process, but it enables members of Congress to each, to put in lots of different stuff and to work through a whole bunch of things and reconcile the priorities for both parties in order to get to a majority in order to pass the bill. And they're very close.

And what Americans don't know is that paid leave is a really groundbreaking piece of the reconciliation bill, which basically sets up an agency inside social security, which would administer paid leave for hundreds of millions of Americans and make it possible for both men and women to receive a payroll tax, essentially. That's in the current version, we'll see how it ends. But there's a small payroll tax that then would fund 12 weeks of leave, paid leave, for folks that don't get it already through their employer. I mean, this is groundbreaking.

Most, I'm sure, of your listeners don't think about this because if you work for a big company, I mean every big company offers paid leave for the most part. But if you're an hourly worker, if you do work in a company that is less than 50 people, which is millions of people, you're not even obligated to offer any protected leave for the birth or care for a child, illness of a child. And that means that tens of millions of Americans, only about 30% of all Americans have any paid leave right now. And it's just a massive drag. I mean, can you imagine just going without salary for 12 weeks when you have a newborn, just in order to be there for the most critical days of the child's life, it's unconscionable that we've never done this. And so if they pass this, it's truly remarkably groundbreaking, and it will change families' lives permanently.

Clint Betts

You understand the political world, and so I have two questions for you. One is, what motivated you to get into politics and try to make a difference in that space and really roll up your sleeves because you have this initiative, which is All in Together, which I want to talk about. So that's my first question, is what drove you to do that? My second question is, are they as incompetent as they seem?

Lauren Leader

That's a leading question. And actually I can answer both questions in the same way. So I grew up in Washington DC. So in some ways it's like a one industry town, it's like growing up in Hollywood—you're going to wind up in the film business. If you grow up in Washington, you're going to wind up doing something political. But my parents were both real social justice warriors in their own way, committed to public service, and spent their lives in service. And so many families that I grew up with, their parents were public servants and worked in various administrations.

And so I've always seen the government and the political process as meaningful. As something that actually matters and makes a difference in people's lives. What drove me to politics really was seeing how many women were not involved. And the number of women that didn't really seem to care that decisions were being made without them, that they were vastly underrepresented at every level, that women's issues, family issues were not getting the attention that they deserved.

And so I wanted to figure out how I can help motivate more women to see themselves as actors in our democracy, to be willing to step up, even if they never run for office, but that they have an active voice and participate. And so that's why we found it All in Together, which is one of the only truly nonpartisan women's political education organizations. And it's been a really magical experience to just do something positive and constructive, and being nonpartisan in this wildly polarized time has also been remarkably meaningful, super hard, and always complicated, never more so in some ways than now, because of the polarization. And also if you believe in democracy, if you believe in this core principle that our nation was founded on, that everyone deserves a voice and that our government is of the people by the people and for the people, the most fundamental ideal of our nation. You have to believe in that even when it means including people that you don't agree with.

And that's a really challenging thing right now because the disagreements are so deep and so ideological and so polarizing. But I really believe that. And I do believe that our democracy is made strong of the participation of women, all women, Republicans, Democrats. People know I'm a Democrat, but I deeply value the relationships I've built with Republican women, who I respect and admire. We don't agree on a lot of things, but I want their voice at the table. They deserve to have a voice at the table. And so that's what we do all together. And that's why it means so much to me.

Clint Betts

What holds women back in politics and business? I know that's a very broad and maybe a naive question, but I think it'd be useful for this audience to hear.

Lauren Leader

Yeah. And I didn't answer your dysfunctional Congress question. I didn't answer that. I didn't mean to ignore it, but it sort of goes together. So, I mean, look, I believe that there are a lot of really good people who are every day out there working to try to make the country better in the best way that they know how in a really difficult and complicated structure. The founders built our democracy this way on purpose. I don't think they would have envisioned how polarized and dysfunctional it's become. But they built the US Congress this way on purpose. They built the two houses, the two legislative chambers to be really different. They wanted the Senate to be this long term deliberative body. They wanted them to serve six years so that they were not subject just to the political whims of the day so that they could take a longer term view. And they wanted them to be representing an entire state.

And then on the flip side, they wanted the Congress to be the voice of the people. To be super responsive, they'd have to run for office every two years, because then if they did something that the people didn't like, they would be voted out, and that they could be voted out quickly. And so they set up this system, really, in a brilliant way. It's working in some ways. It is meant to move slowly. It is meant to prevent any one party from radically changing the landscape of our nation in any short period of time. And they wanted that on purpose. The unfortunate side of that is that it can be really frustrating. And members of Congress have said to me, when you sit in high office, you learn to relish the incremental. It's rare that you're going to make a big sweeping change. You learn to take small steps and to work over a very long term to drive forward.

So I think to answer your second question, look, I think in politics, it's very encouraging what's happening in terms of women running for office. We did see record numbers of women in the last two cycles step forward, but it remains remarkably hard. When women choose to run, they win at equal rates as men. So when they step up, they do remarkably well. And yes, there's bias in the system, but if they run, they tend to win at basically the same rates as men, all of the things being equal. But they still remain heavily deterred from running in the first place. And even though the numbers have been historic, they're still not nearly where they would need to be in order for us to get to a 50%, or anything close to that. I mean, there's only one state in the country that has even 50% women in their state legislature, and that's Nevada. Well, Virginia is now very close. But in most states it's 20%, 30% women in the state legislature. And Congress has still not ever been greater than 30%.

And I think part of it is because women look at this landscape and they do ask a legitimate question, which is, is this really the best way to serve? And I think for a lot of women, nonprofit leadership, engaging in community organizations, serving in their churches, PTAs, those kinds of things feel closer to home and feel more meaningful. But I'm hopeful that that's changing, that as women see more and more women in public office, see women that they know participate in the process in other ways that shows them that it's not hopelessly broken, that they can make a difference, that that will motivate people.

And it's not radically dissimilar in the business world. You still see women holding back from, not really pushing for the top jobs. There's a lot of ambivalence about whether or not it's worth it at the top. Whether they're willing to make the sacrifices that it takes to have those top jobs. And as long as those jobs, whether it's in Congress or in the Senate, or in the White House or in corporate America, as long as the model for leadership is this very white male model, which it is, and it remains, people ask, is there really a place for me? Can I be who I am and succeed in those roles?

And that's a legitimate question. And I think we need more CEOs to help people see that the answer is that you can lead and you can do it your way, that we are not going to force you to be something you're not, we are not going to expect women to lead like men. We are not going to enforce a standard of macho behavior in the C-suite that makes women feel that there's no space for them. All of that stuff has to continue to change. And we need to keep seeing more and more women sit in those positions and do it on their own terms to prove to younger up-and-coming women that they can do it too.

Clint Betts

I do wonder how much the pandemic has changed that. And you've touched on this a little bit already, but when you talk about politics and how women will look around, they're like, I can actually serve much more effectively and much more meaningfully locally on a nonprofit, or you said, like PTA or inside my church community or whatever it is. I wonder if that's not actually the right decision. That's a fascinating thing. I have had a couple friends run for office in my time. One is now the governor of Utah. Another, one's a Congressman here in Utah. And as I've seen what they've gone through to attain those positions, as I've seen what they've gone through since getting the position, I always tell them this is great for everyone but you. This is not great for you.

Lauren Leader

Right. Well, you're never going to convince me that people shouldn't run for office. Look, it's all important and good. And of course we need people to volunteer for their community organizations and to serve on boards of education and PTAs and all that stuff. Of course we need that. And that's important. What drives me a little bit slightly crazy is that I will just tell you, so I ran for office. I'm an elected official in my local town in Westchester, New York. I am the only woman on my town board, which is about to change because very excitingly, we have four women running in this cycle. So no matter what, I will not be the only one after November, which is really thrilling.

But when I was running, women in my town would say to me, "Oh, I could never do what you're doing." And then I talk to them and it turns out that they're on the PTA. Let me tell you something. You want to talk about vicious, hand to hand combat politics, spend some time on a PTA. They got nothing on running for office. I mean, it's intense.

And so women are willing to put in all kinds of energy and fight all kinds of difficult challenges when they think it's worth it. I think that the gap is that they don't see political participation as something that's worth it. We've been telling this story that it's not worth it. It's worth it. And it's worth it because when you control tens of millions of dollars in a budget for your town, when you're deciding about the new buildings and the roads and the stop signs and the speed zones and your police and your fire, and the stuff that is what I do every day in my town board. It's not the sexiest stuff. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about sewer rents lately. I'm going to tell you it wasn't the most interesting thing I've ever done. But it's an amazing thing to get to be part of that.

And I think we need people to see. Look to the bigger point about your friends who run for office in your state. You wanted them there, because you wanted good people with good values, who are committed truly to public service. And that's key. Public service, not self-service. Not self-interest. Not doing it because they want power and attention but doing it because they're actually committed to making their community better, and God willing, the country. Those are the people you want. And we need those good people. And as long as the good people think it's not worth it, we're going to self-fulfill that prophecy. That's how we wind up with a lot of really nutty, fringe people who are absolutely up for themselves and not out for the good of the country in high office, because they're the ones that are willing to do it, and they're doing it for all the wrong reasons, but they're the only ones who are going to step up.

So we have to change this narrative. What's magical about this country, what's magical about America, the reason why we all so deeply believe in the values of what it is to be an American and believe in democracy, is because we own it. We invented this idea that our government is us. It's not some foreign thing. It's who we are. And so if we abdicate our ownership of the government then we will wind up with a government that's not what we want. And I just can't say that enough. We need good people to be willing to embrace this core principle of the American ideal, which is that it's ours. And if we don't step up to own it, people we are not so thrilled with will.

Clint Betts

I'm convinced. Lauren—

Lauren Leader

Wow. Thank you for coming TED talk.

Clint Betts

That was beautiful, my friend. That was incredible. I want to vote for you now. I'm ready for Lauren 2024. Let's get you in the White House.

Lauren Leader

No. Clint for mayor of Salt Lake.

Clint Betts

You don't want me mayor of Salt Lake. Let me ask you, from a business perspective, what is the right type of leadership when you look at leaders who are doing stuff right, who do you think of, and what are they doing right in this domain?

Lauren Leader

Yeah. I'm glad you asked that. One of my great privileges is that I get to work with a lot of CEOs. I sort of have this dual career. I do a lot of work on diversity in corporate America. And then I do my work in diversity in politics and media, et cetera. But I'm really inspired by some of the white male CEOs who have taken the challenge of diversity deeply, personally, and seriously, and have put their own careers on the line to make good on the commitments and this vision of a more diverse, inclusive corporate America. And I think they deserve credit for that.

And it bothers me that we're so skeptical sometimes about CEO leadership and their ability to drive culture change. When you look at the ways in which, I mean, there are hundreds of CEOs now, there are many more women than there were, we do have a record number of women CEOs in the Fortune 500, now it's, I think we're up to 11%, which is pretty extraordinary, not enough, but it's a big climb from a few years ago.

But even among the many male CEOs in the Fortune 500, and obviously like in the tech industry and all the worlds that you serve, I think it's remarkable, the very serious commitment that CEOs are making on a couple fronts, obviously to diversity and inclusion, and to really trying to hold their leaders and themselves accountable for making sure that their boards and their leadership teams are representative of America and the world.

The second is on CSR, impact. And the kinds of commitments that I'm seeing, really, almost every major company has now come to understand that social good is a non-negotiable. That you must have a good commitment to whether it's ESG or its sustainability as sort of a larger principle, or just sort of being a good actor in the world. That is a remarkable sea change in 10 years. Just for such a huge number of companies to be taking leading positions on net zero on carbon and pushing and divesting from investments. I mean, there's just an endless number of ways in which companies are becoming real leaders in the climate fight, and just in sustainability generally.

And then the third piece is just in terms of a more inclusive management and culture. And I think just the environment for working in a big company today is so radically different than it was when we were coming up, Clint, I mean you and I are solidly Gen X. And it's a completely different world than our younger colleagues are coming into, and they're shaping it. I mean, so much of this is driven by just the sort of relentlessness of the millennials and the Gen Zs who are not having it. Like they will vote with their feet and walk out the door if they think the culture is not living up to its values.

But before they do, they're going to really hold the CEO to account. And they're probably going to make a big stink before they walk out the door, which is not always the easiest thing to deal with, but it's remarkable, their courage and their willingness to challenge the status quo everywhere they go. And I do think that's, on balance, a good thing. Sometimes the woke line sometimes gets a little—sometimes it's a lot. But I think that on balance, the everyday activism of younger folks in the workforce is making a radical and permanent change in ways that are very good, not just for companies, but for society.

Clint Betts

How do we know whether they're doing it because they mean it, or they're doing it for public relations? And here's an example that's kind of interesting. And I don't want to pick on Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg. I actually interviewed Mark Zuckerberg recently at the most recent Summit. And they say a lot of this stuff, but then on balance, I'm not sure if Facebook is net good for the world, net bad for the world, I don't know. And he seems like a decent enough guy and he's tackling and thinking about these problems. But that's just one example of a really major, major company that has so much power. I think he has more power than most countries in the world. How do we know if that is just PR or if it's that they actually mean it?

Lauren Leader

Well, sometimes it is. And I think people are holding companies accountable when they're not serious about it. I mean, you've seen a lot of that, this sort of calling out, and this is one place where social media, I think actually has a positive role to play, which is that it does enable people to call out corporate malfeasance or sort of corporate hypocrisy in a way that didn't exist before. And there's a lot of examples of that. I mean, I was at Global Citizen a week ago, and Global Citizen's amazing. And I couldn't help thinking, I mean, Coca-Cola did this big ad about taking all the plastics out of the sea, but you can’t not say, well, yeah, but you're making the plastics. I'm glad you're working to take them out of the sea, but when are we going to start to stop making the plastics?

I applaud every company that is trying to do good. And I think that that's a set of values that should be encouraged. I don't want corporations to be discouraged from making strides because they're worried that if they don't go far enough they're going to get hammered. On the other hand, on balance, it doesn't bother me that much if they're worried about getting hammered and then they're going to do something better because of it.

So look, I think for sure there's companies that it's just a PR whitewash. I think there's no question. On the other hand, I don't mind that so much. You're making a difference, you're doing something positive that you probably wouldn't have done otherwise, it's enough positive in my book. I think the social media companies, it's a little different, and there is, in full transparency, my nonprofit is funded by Facebook and Twitter. They've been very, very good to us, very generous to us. They support our mission in ways that are meaningful and constructive for us. I think some of the criticism is totally fair. I think some of the stuff around, particularly since we've been talking about women's issues, some of the stuff around Instagram and their effect on young girls, I legitimately think it's not super fair. The study that keeps getting cited is extremely limited, a bunch of it's been taken out of context.

And I don't know how you blame the platform when you've got thousands of influencers that are online peddling super sexualized images of themselves, to young girls. So it's hard to totally blame the platform for what is a pervasive issue in society. And yes, I think seeing that stuff every day is probably not great. On the other hand, I'm someone who got a Victoria Secret catalog in the mail every single day of my childhood. And I will tell you that it was no bueno. It was terrible for my self-esteem. Every woman I know, my age, found that the Victoria Secret catalog was absolutely devastating to their self-esteem. So this stuff has been going on for a long time, hold corporations accountable for what they're truly responsible for, by all means. But let's also look at some of the larger pieces of how society plays a role. Not everything is the responsibility of a corporation.

Clint Betts

Yeah. I think that's fair. This reflexive thing that we have as society to blame the platforms for what people do on them. But then on the reverse side it is like, we charge these platforms to decide what can say on them and what can't. So they have this insane amount of power around like speech, because in the United States, we have the first amendment. Literally, if the government was running these things, they couldn't do what Facebook and Twitter do. Twitter and Facebook can kick people off for putting hate speech or whatever type of speech they don't want on their platform. They can kick people off because they're private companies. They don't have the first amendment at those companies.

But if the government controlled these, well, you get what I'm saying. They can regulate speech in a way that the government can't. If the government had control of these platforms, they couldn't. The first amendment doesn't allow them. And so it's really fascinating that they have a lot of power. And I don't know what to do about that.

Lauren Leader

Look, I mean, and I'll just tell you my personal experience as someone who's also a public figure. I've had an avalanche of threats against me online, and most of it tied to both my media and then also to my public office. And, my town, I live in this cute little, bucolic town, we have some crazy people in my town who have targeted me, targeted my kids online. Scary stuff. I had to get security at my house. And for a lot of public officials, this is like a daily thing, that on a daily basis they are dealing with death threats. And every woman member of Congress I know, has had to take out private security because of it. That is a line I wish the platforms were more aggressive on.

I have had those conversations with Facebook, and I don't think they're blameless. I think it's also extraordinarily difficult for all the reasons that you've just said. They get blamed by the right for censoring conservative speech. They get blamed by the left for not censoring it enough. And that is really difficult. I think they could do better. And I would like to see the platforms get much more serious about hate speech, about violence, about threats. They do have the infrastructure to do that, but I don't think they enforce it nearly enough.

And then look, I think Twitter made the right call, and I'm very proud of Twitter for having made the call to eliminate political advertising, because they just felt in fairness it wasn't a huge part of their business, but fundamentally Twitter felt that they could not maintain standards and truth on the site and allow political advertising because they don't have the capacity to regulate it. And they don't have the capacity to moderate whether or not the political advertising was peddling false information. And so they just got rid of it.

And I think that was a hundred percent the right call. I was very proud of them. It was a difficult decision. I'd like to see more deep thought on these things. And I think political advertising is a really great area. So listen, you managed in 40 minutes to raise like five of the most difficult issues of our time. Thanks, Clint. I'm sorry I didn't solve them, but I'll be working on them.

Clint Betts

No. It's fascinating. So I got to let you go, because I want to respect your time. But I want to ask you one more question. And we got to have you back on, because I have a million things I want to talk to you about and we got to continue this conversation.

Lauren Leader

Okay.

Clint Betts

But as we've been talking about social media, I wonder what your thoughts are on, there are folks who get fired for things that they post on social media, and this whole, I think people call mob justice or something along those lines. What do you think, and this is another gray area, and how are you and I going to solve this.

Lauren Leader

You could do a whole show just on this one.

Clint Betts

Yeah. Isn't it fascinating? I'm not sure what... I mean, obviously you don't want everything you just described happening on social media. On the other hand, we all have to have some sort of grace and charity for human beings. And if they tweeted something 15 years ago when they were 16, should they be fired for that today? I'm not sure what the line is on that.

Lauren Leader

I know. I think it's a really important question. I mean, look, I think a couple of things. I think many companies have taken the position that their employees are always representing them. Many of my clients have very, very strict social media policies. And their view is that you do not, as an employee, have the freedom to post whatever you want, because you're a representative of the institution. And as a private company, to your point, they can do that. And one of my clients fired somebody last year for posting a picture online of them holding an AK-47 that had a threatening statement on it. Does the second amendment apply? Well, it's a private company. Does the first amendment apply? It's a private company. And they view the online behavior of their employees as an extension of their brand. And that's been backed up in court. The courts have seen that favorably, and allowed employers to do that. And I think we're going to see more of that.

On the other hand, I do really appreciate your point about grace and charity. And I think we've had some figures in the media that got fired for stuff that they said many, many years go. I think on balance, a lot of folks are given a second chance at their careers, but companies have to uphold a certain set of standards. And in a moment where the brands are being held accountable for every action of their employees, in some cases, they just don't have a lot of choices. But I don't love the mob justice stuff online. I think a lot of it goes too far. I think on balance though, the calls for people to take responsibility for their actions probably are a net positive. But we do need to continue navigating it. I don't think it's fair to hold somebody accountable for the rest of their lives for the thing they did at 16.

One of my favorite TED talks, and then I'm going to let you go. But if you haven't seen or read some of the stuff that Monica Lewinsky's written, it's really amazing stuff. Because this is someone who is, she's my age, she's 47, 46, and is spending her entire life dealing with actions from when she was basically a kid. And she's been extraordinarily thoughtful about why we do that to people, and especially to women and how important it is to let people move on, but also just the way in which we publicly shame people and that they have to carry that their whole lives. And she really changed some of my thinking about that. I was really moved and I thought it was super courageous of her. I think it's super courageous of her to be writing about this and to be talking about it and challenging us on a lot of these assumptions, given what she's lived.

So look, you have the privilege of getting to work with the tech industry at this unbelievably complicated time. And you're asking a lot of good questions and we should just keep asking them. And ask people to think really hard about how to answer them.

Clint Betts

I think you're right about Monica Lewinsky. Not only all of that you just said, which is true. She's hilarious on Twitter. Great Twitter follow.

Lauren Leader

She's got an A-plus Twitter. I give her that. An A-plus on Twitter.

Clint Betts

Lauren Leader, thank you so much for coming on. Everyone check out Crossing the Thinnest Line, the book that Lauren wrote. Highly recommend it. Lauren, thanks so much.

Lauren Leader

Thanks. Be well.

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