Name: Margaret “Meg” Whitman
Short biography: Meg Whitman was born in 1956 in Long Island, New York. She graduated from Princeton with an economics degree in 1977 and then received an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School in 1979. During her early career life, she worked at Procter & Gamble, The Walt Disney Company and Hasbro. In 2011, Whitman was made President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard. She currently lives in Atherton, California, with her husband, a Stanford neurosurgeon, and their two sons.1
What they do: Whitman joined the board of Hewlett-Packard (H-P) in January 2011. In September of the same year, she was made President and CEO. Since her instatement at the top, Whitman has made efforts to reverse some of the damage caused by her predecessor Léo Apotheker. She has redoubled the company’s dedication to the PC industry—which Apotheketer had wanted to move away from—and has aimed to rebuild both employee and consumer confidence in the H-P brand.
Why they matter: Recently, Whitman has announced that HP will be reducing its workforce by about 8 percent over the next two years. The layoffs are expected to save the company $3-3.5 billion and will allow H-P to focus more on cloud computing—the next big thing in IT. During a conference call with reporters about the layoffs, Whitman said that the layoffs certainly “adversely impact people's lives, but in this case, they are absolutely critical to the long-term health of the company.”2 Whitman is aiming to re-energize the H-P brand, and while the results of her efforts remain to be seen, Whitman’s certainly already making efforts to make H-P a viable company going into the future.
How they got where they are: Whitman started at Procter & Gamble in 1979 as a brand manager. She then moved to consult at Bain & Company, where she later became a senior vice president. In 1989, Whitman was hired by The Walt Disney Company as a vice president of strategic planning; in 1991, she moved to the Stride Rite Corporation; and in 1995, she joined Florists’ Transworld Delivery as president and CEO. In 1997, she became the Playskool Division General Manager at Hasbro, where she oversaw global management and marketing of the Playskool and Mr. Potato Head brands. We can also thank her (if you’re so inclined) for introducing Teletubbies to US audiences.1
Her start in the technology sector came in 1998, when she joined eBay as president and CEO. When she started, the company had only 30 employees. 20 years later, the company had grown to more than 15,000 employees. She resigned from the company in 2007, was inducted into the U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2008, and ran for governor of California in the 2010 elections.
Whitman has been named as one of Fortune magazine’s top five most powerful women, Harvard Business Review’s eighth-best-performing CEO of the past decade and as one of the Financial Times’ “50 faces that shaped the decade.”