Women 3.0: Carly Fiorina

Name: Carly Fiorina

Short biography: Carly Fiorina (born Cara Carlton Sneed) was born in Austin, TX, in 1954. She attended the private Channing School for Girls in London until her senior year in high school, when her family moved to North Carolina; for her senior year, she attended Charles E. Jordan High School in Durham. Fiorina received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and medieval arts from Stanford in 1976 and attended the UCLA School of Law for one semester, worked as a receptionist for six months and then moved to Italy to teach English. Her MBA, which she received in 1980, is in marketing and from the University of Maryland—College Park. She also has a master’s in management from the MIT Sloan School of Management.1

Fiorina has worked for AT&T and Lucent, and was CEO of HP from 1999—2005. In 2009, she made a run for the California senate. Fiorina is married with a daughter (and two grandchildren); she and her husband split their time between California and Virginia.2

What they do: Appropriately enough for the events of this week, Fiorina is still heavily involved in politics, even after her failed 2009 run. She is the Vice-Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a California State Chair in support of Romney for President; she also serves serves on the Board of the American Conservative Union. (She’s a frequent talking head on CNBC.)

Fiorina is also currently chairman of the charitable organization Good360, a nonprofit that provides resources to help other nonprofits reach their goals and helps companies give back to their communities.3 She’s also on the boards of a variety of other organizations, including the Foundation for Health Coverage Education.2

Why they matter: Fiorina is “regarded by many as being the first woman to head up a Fortune 20 company,” and therefore is seen as one of the first women to break through the proverbial glass ceiling. No small feat, that's for sure. During her time at HP, she pushed a merger with Compaq, which “created the world’s largest personal computer manufacturer.” Reviews on her achievements with the company are mixed; one magazine even referred to her as the “anti-Steve Jobs.”1 According to her personal website, however, “Under her leadership, HP doubled in revenues to $88 Billion and generated 11 patents a day, with significantly improved profitability and cash flow. HP became a leader in every product category and market segment in which it competed.”2

Fiorina’s political agenda has also received mixed reviews; although she didn’t defeat Barbara Boxer to become senator of California, the exposure led her to become a media figure/pundit.1

Her other achievements include:

  • Being named Fortune’s “most powerful woman in business” in 1998.

  • Being included in the Time 100 in 2004.

  • Being included multiple times on Forbes’ list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women;” in 2004, she was No. 10.1

How they got where they are: Fiorina took her time getting into the technology profession, but with her positions at AT&T/Lucent and then HP, she rose to or was at the top almost from the start. And although she’s no longer in the tech field, she’s obviously a woman who’s not afraid to make waves to get a company (or herself) to where she believes it should be.

References: 1, 2, 3

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