Carly Fiorina

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Carly Fiorina
Carly Fiorina by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Fiorina speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Personal details
Born Cara Carleton Sneed
(1954-09-06) September 6, 1954 (age 60)
Austin, Texas, United States
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Todd Bartlem (1977–1984)
Frank Fiorina (1985–present)
Alma mater Stanford University
University of California,
Los Angeles

University of Maryland
Massachusetts Institute of
Website Official website

Carly Fiorina (born Cara Carleton Sneed; September 6, 1954) is an American former business executive and was the Republican nominee for the United States Senate from California in 2010. Fiorina served as chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard from 1999 to 2005 after being an executive at AT&T and its equipment and technology spinoff, Lucent.

Fiorina was considered one of the most powerful women in business during her tenure at Lucent and Hewlett-Packard. While she was chief executive at HP, the company weathered the collapse of the dot-com bubble. In 2002, Fiorina pushed for a contentious merger with rival computer company Compaq, which made HP the world's largest personal computer manufacturer[1] but made its stock lose half of its value.[2] In 2005, Fiorina was forced to resign from HP.[3] Since then she has been described as one of the worst tech CEOs of all time.[4][5][6][7]

Fiorina served as an advisor to Republican John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. She was the Republican nominee for the United States Senate from California in 2010, losing to incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.[8] She is actively considering running for President of the United States in 2016.[9][10]

Early life[edit]

Fiorina was born as Cara Carleton Sneed on September 6, 1954, in Austin, Texas,[11] the daughter of Madelon Montross (née Juergens), a portrait and abstract artist, and Joseph Tyree Sneed III, a law school professor, dean, and federal judge.[12]

Education and early career[edit]

Fiorina attended Channing School in London, and later attended Charles E. Jordan High School in Durham, North Carolina, for her senior year; the family relocated frequently during this time. She received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and medieval history from Stanford University in 1976. During her summers, she worked at a hair salon and as a secretary for Kelly Services.[13] She attended the UCLA School of Law in 1976 but dropped out[14] after one semester and worked as a receptionist for six months at a real estate firm Marcus & Millichap, moving up to a broker position before leaving for Italy, where she taught English.[15] Fiorina received a Master of Business Administration in marketing from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park in 1980. She received a Master of Science in management from the MIT Sloan School of Management under the Sloan Fellows program in 1989.

AT&T and Lucent[edit]

She joined AT&T in 1980 as a management trainee and rose to become a senior vice president overseeing the company's hardware and systems division. In 1995, Fiorina led corporate operations for the spinoff from AT&T of Lucent, reporting to Lucent chief executive Henry B. Schacht;[16] she played a key role in planning and implementing the 1996 initial public offering of stock and company launch strategy.[17][18] Later in 1996, Fiorina was appointed president of Lucent's consumer products business, reporting to Rich McGinn, president and chief operating officer.[18] In 1997, she was appointed chair of Lucent's consumer communications joint venture with Philips consumer communications.[19] Later that year, she was named group president for the global service provider business at Lucent, overseeing marketing and sales for the company's largest customer segment.[20][21]

In 1998, Fortune magazine named her the "most powerful woman in business" in its inaugural listing, and she was included in the Time 100 in 2004 and remained in the Fortune listing throughout her tenure at HP. Fiorina was #10 on the Forbes list of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women for 2004.[22][23][24][25][26][27][28]

She became regarded by many as being the first woman to head up a Fortune 20 company, and to have overcome the metaphorical "glass ceiling".[29][30][31]


In July 1999, Hewlett-Packard Company named Fiorina chief executive officer succeeding Lewis Platt and prevailing over the internal candidate Ann Livermore.[32] She became the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company.[33] Fiorina immediately became a highly visible chief executive, and remained so throughout her tenure at the company with a vast array of engineering talent at her disposal.[34]

Carly Fiorina, as CEO and Chair of the Board of Hewlett-Packard

Fiorina proceeded to reorganize HP, and merge the part she kept with the PC maker Compaq. Although the decision to spin off the company's technical equipment division predated her arrival, one of her first major responsibilities as chief executive was overseeing the separation of the unit into the standalone Agilent Technologies. Fiorina proposed the acquisition of the technology services arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers for almost $14 billion but withdrew the bid after a lackluster reception from Wall Street. Following the collapse of the dot-com bubble, the PwC consulting arm was acquired by IBM for less than $4 billion.[35] In 2001, Fiorina was named one of the thirty most powerful women in America by Forbes magazine.[36] In early September 2001, in the wake of the bursting of the Tech Bubble, Fiorina announced the controversial merger with Compaq, a leading competitor in the industry. Fiorina fought for the merger, and it was implemented despite strong opposition from board member Walter Hewlett (the son of company co-founder William Hewlett) who claimed that the merger was being pursued by Fiorina in desperation to make a strategic decision and to give her some breathing space from Wall Street.

He launched a proxy fight against Fiorina's efforts, which failed.[37][38] The Compaq merger[39] created the world's largest personal computer manufacturer by units shipped,[40] a position the company lost in 2003 and regained in 2006.[41]

Fiorina presented herself as a realist regarding the effects of globalization. She has been a strong proponent, along with other technology executives, of the expansion of the H-1B visa program.[42] In January 2004, at a meeting to "head off rising protectionist sentiment in Congress," Fiorina said: "There is no job that is America's God-given right anymore. We have to compete for jobs as a nation."[43][44][45] While Fiorina argued that the only way to "protect U.S. high-tech jobs over the long haul was to become more competitive [in the United States]," her comments prompted "strong reactions" from some technology workers who argued that lower wages outside the United States encouraged the offshoring of American jobs.[46] Fiorina responded against protectionism in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, writing that while "America is the most innovative country," it would not remain so if the country were to "run away from the reality of the global economy."[47]

In early January 2005, the Hewlett-Packard board of directors discussed with Fiorina a list of issues that the board had regarding the company's performance.[48] The board proposed a plan to shift her authority to HP division heads, which Fiorina resisted.[49] A week after the meeting, the confidential plan was leaked to the Wall Street Journal.[50] Less than a month later, the board brought back Tom Perkins and forced Fiorina to resign as chair and chief executive officer of the company.[51] The company's stock jumped on news of Fiorina's departure.[52] Under the company's agreement with Fiorina, which was characterized as a golden parachute by Meredith Vieira[53] and TIME magazine[54] and Yahoo![55] she was paid slightly more than $20 million in severance.[56]

Fiorina's tenure at HP has been both criticised and defended. In 2008, InfoWorld grouped her with a list of products and ideas as flops, declaring her tenure as CEO of HP to be the 6th worst tech flop of all-time and characterizing her as the "anti-Steve Jobs" for reversing the goodwill of American engineers and for alienating existing customers.[57] In 2008, Loren Steffy of The New York Times suggested that the EDS acquisition well after Fiorina's tenure was evidence that her actions as CEO were justified.[58] Fiorina has often been ranked as one of the worst tech CEOs of all time.[4][5][6][7]

After HP[edit]

After resigning from HP, Fiorina was named to several board memberships. She was named to the boards of directors at Revolution Health Group[59] and computer security company Cybertrust.[60] The following year, she became a member of the board of directors for chip maker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.[61] She joined the board of trustees of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum. She is an Honorary Fellow of the London Business School.[62][63][64][65] In July 2012, Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia appointed her to the James Madison University Board of Visitors.[66]

In April 2012, Fiorina became chair of Good360, a nonprofit organization in Alexandria, Virginia that helps companies donate excess merchandise to charities.[67]

Media career[edit]

Fiorina received significant media exposure before and during her tenure at HP, speaking at many business conferences and appearing on the cover of numerous business magazines. In the years since leaving HP, Fiorina has maintained her visibility in the media. In a commencement address in May 2005, Fiorina said about her tenure at Hewlett-Packard:

The worst thing I could have imagined happened. I lost my job in the most public way possible, and the press had a field day with it all over the world. And guess what? I'm still here. I am at peace and my soul is intact.[68]

During an interview with Charlie Rose, Fiorina said she believed that her leadership was strong during her tenure with Hewlett-Packard, and that the Compaq merger was a critical step for the company, although the merger was misunderstood by the board of directors.[69] In October 2006, Fiorina released an autobiography, Tough Choices, about her career and her views on such issues as what constitutes a leader, how women can thrive in business, and the role technology will continue to play in reshaping the world. Fiorina signed on with the Fox Business Network to become a business commentator on the network.[70] She is Chair and CEO of Carly Fiorina Enterprises where, according to her political campaign Facebook page, she is "bringing her unique perspective and experience to bear on the challenging issues of our world, championing economic growth and empowerment for a more prosperous and secure world".[71] She has appeared at many public events. She rang the opening bell of the Wall Street stock market on the official day of the HP-Compaq merger and in 2000 she was the ceremonial host opening the largest EasyInternetcafé at Times Square and the opening of the Epcot ride Mission: SPACE.[72] In 2004, Fiorina was a member of the President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, which produced a report for George W. Bush. She has appeared many times on TV such as in 2007 on Real Time with Bill Maher.

Fiorina has and continues to be involved with many business leadership activities including:


In 2008, Fiorina worked for Senator John McCain's presidential campaign. In early 2008, Fiorina was referred to in media sources as a potential vice presidential candidate,[83][84] and The New York Times noted that while she didn't want to run, she is an executive who could possibly become a candidate for President.[85] On March 7, 2008, Fiorina was named fundraising chair for the Republican National Committee's "Victory" initiative. She was also a "point person" for the McCain campaign on issues related to business and economic affairs.[86] Fiorina's severance package from Hewlett-Packard in 2005, was viewed by some as a political liability during the campaign.[87][88][89]

On September 3, 2008, Fiorina addressed the Republican National Convention. Earlier that day, she defended the selection of Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate and said that Palin was being subjected to sexist attacks, a charge she repeated a few days later in response to one of the Saturday Night Live parodies of Sarah Palin.[90][91][92] In response to questions during a radio interview on September 15, 2008, she stated that Palin lacks the experience to run a major company like Hewlett-Packard, "[b]ut that's not what she's running for. Running a corporation is a different set of things." Fiorina later amended her comment, stating that none of the candidates on either ticket had the experience to run a major corporation.[93][94][95] After media coverage of her comments, one of her scheduled appearances on behalf of the campaign was canceled, although Fiorina continued to chair the party's fundraising committee.[96][97][98][99][100]

In August 2013, conservative Newsmax magazine named Fiorina among the "25 most influential women in the GOP".[101]

Senate candidacy[edit]

Fiorina's campaign sign during her candidacy for U.S. Senator from California

On November 4, 2009, Fiorina formally announced her candidacy in the 2010 Senate election in a bid to unseat incumbent Barbara Boxer.[102][103][104][105] Fiorina's campaign in the Republican primary for that seat received a number of endorsements,[106] including one from Sarah Palin in the form of a Facebook note.[107][108][109] Her campaign ad about Republican rival Tom Campbell featuring a "demon sheep" created international, mostly negative, publicity.[110][111] After the ad went viral, the California Democratic Party created a parody of the ad depicting Fiorina herself as a demon sheep.[112]

On June 8, 2010, Fiorina won the Republican primary election for Senate with over 50 percent of the vote, beating Campbell and State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.

The Los Angeles Times research of public records indicated Fiorina had failed to vote in most elections. Fiorina responded: "I'm a lifelong registered Republican but I haven't always voted, and I will provide no excuse for it. You know, people die for the right to vote. And there are many, many Californians and Americans who exercise that civic duty on a regular basis. I didn't. Shame on me."[113][114]

The Los Angeles Times noted that Fiorina has conservative positions on certain social issues. She personally opposed abortion and, as a private citizen, stated that she voted for Proposition 8, which defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman, overturning a court ruling that same-sex couples had a right to marry.[115] Following an August 4, 2010, federal court ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, Fiorina expressed disagreement with the ruling, saying that California voters spoke clearly against same-sex unions when a majority approved the proposition in 2008.[116] She had stated that she opposed litmus tests for Supreme Court nominations and did not favor a federal "personhood" amendment.[117] Fiorina had called climate change a "serious issue" but claimed that the science surrounding global warming is inconclusive, saying "I think we should have the courage to examine the science on an ongoing basis."[118] In a campaign ad, Fiorina also likened Boxer's concerns over global warming to worrying about "the weather."[119] She accepted large contributions from the coal industry[120] as well as Koch Industries[121] Fiorina opposed the cap and trade legislation supported by Boxer, and thought efforts to control greenhouse gases would cost 3 million jobs and are "massively destructive".[122][123]

Sarah Palin was set to appear at a GOP fundraiser two weeks ahead of the November 2nd election, but neither Meg Whitman nor Fiorina – both big-name Republicans – planned to attend. The prediction was Palin's primary endorsement would jeopardize her general election candidacy.[124]

By October 22, when it became public that she had loaned $1 million to her campaign, Fiorina had contributed $6.5 million to her own race.[125]

Boxer won the general election, defeating Fiorina 52.2% to 42.2%.


Fiorina continues to advocate for Republican and conservative causes. On February 8, 2013, she gave a keynote address at the Ripon Society’s 2013 Legislative and Communications Directors Symposium on Leadership at Mount Vernon, advocating for several issues including simplifying and reforming the federal tax code, promoting the use of business technology in government, and helping small businesses.[126]

On July 1, 2013, she spoke at the National Press Club, calling for reforms to boost small business.[127]

Political future[edit]

Carly Fiorina speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on February 26, 2015.

Fiorina has ruled out running for the U.S. Senate in 2016,[128] but has refused to rule out running for Governor of California in 2018 and for President in 2016.[129][130][131][132] In November 2014 it was reported by The Washington Post that Fiorina was "actively exploring" a run for President. Her business background and status as the only CEO and the only woman in a "sea of suited men" were mentioned as positives, with Republican strategists pointing to her disastrous 2010 Senate campaign, unpaid campaign debt and dismissal from HP as "considerable challenges".[133] On March 29, 2015, Fiorina told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that there was a "higher than 90 percent" chance that she would enter the race to be the Republican Party nominee in the 2016 presidential election.[134]

Personal life[edit]

Fiorina (then Cara Carleton Sneed) married Todd Bartlem, a Stanford classmate, in June 1977. They divorced in 1984.[135] In 1985, she married AT&T executive Frank Fiorina. It was the second marriage for both. She helped to raise his two daughters Traci and Lori Ann. They attempted to have children together but, as Fiorina puts it: "That wasn't God's plan."[136][137][138] Fiorina and her husband live in Mason Neck, Virginia.

On February 20, 2009, Fiorina was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy[139] at Stanford Hospital on March 2, 2009, followed by chemotherapy, which caused her to temporarily lose her hair, and later radiation therapy.[140] She was given "an excellent prognosis for a full recovery."[141][142] Early in her campaign for the United States Senate seat held by Barbara Boxer, Fiorina told a group of supporters: "I have to say that after chemotherapy, Barbara Boxer just isn't that scary anymore."[143]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Fiorina, Carly. Tough Choices: A Memoir. Portfolio Hardcover, 2006. (hardcover: ISBN 1-59184-133-X, abridged audiobook: ISBN 0-14-305907-6)
  • Anders, George. Perfect Enough: Carly Fiorina and the Reinvention of Hewlett-Packard. New York: Penguin Group, 2003. ISBN 1-59184-003-1.
  • Burrows, Peter. Backfire: Carly Fiorina's High-Stakes Battle for the Soul of Hewlett-Packard. Wiley, 2003. ISBN 0-471-26765-1.

External links[edit]

Interviews and speeches[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
Lewis Platt
President of Hewlett-Packard
Succeeded by
Mark Hurd
Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett-Packard
Succeeded by
Robert Wayman
Preceded by
Richard Hackborn
Chair of Hewlett-Packard
Succeeded by
Patricia Dunn
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill Jones
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from California
(Class 3)

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