8 Things You Didn't Know About Carly Fiorina, Who's A Different Kind Of Feminist Role Model
She's tied for No. 3 in the Republican polls right now, and we knew she had a very contentious track record as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. But I'm willing to bet there are a few things you didn't know about Carly Fiorina, facts about her life that might ease her image as the job-cutting, Planned Parenthood-hating conservative hardliner. While it's easy to render any presidential candidate as just a voice piece for polarized ideologies, it's important — and even entertaining — to remember that they too are human. Yes, even Donald Trump. Fiorina, for instance, dropped out of law school after just one semester. Like you and me and pretty much everyone else in their early 20s, it took the businesswoman a while to find her footing.
After becoming the breakout star following the second GOP debate, Fiorina has gained considerable traction among Republican voters. And despite her dubious claims about Planned Parenthood, Fiorina must still be understood as a female role model. In order to have gotten where she is today, Fiorina didn't just sit pretty and wait for opportunities. After decades in the corporate world and then a rocky tenure as HP's chief executive, Fiorina broke into politics in the 2010 California Senate campaign. But even before politics, before her controversial departure from HP, Fiorina led an interesting and extraordinary life. Below are some tidbits that will hopefully remind you the presidential hopeful is more than just another GOP figure of rhetoric.
1. She's The CEO Of A Nonprofit Organization
Fiorina currently chairs Good 360, an organization that helps companies donate excess products, such as diapers and mattresses, to charities instead of throwing them away. According to its website, the nonprofit distributes $300 million in merchandise every year.
2. She Studied Medieval History and Philosophy In College
So the story goes that while at Stanford, Fiorina was "impractical" and "unfocused," according to Fortune magazine. Well, who wasn't?
3. She Started Out Her Career As A Secretary
Speaking of her college days, Fiorina was once a secretary for Hewlett-Packard under the shipping department. Later, she worked several other receptionist roles before attending business school. As The Washington Post points out, Fiorina likes to emphasize her past secretary work, utilizing the rags-to-riches narrative that buries the fact her father was a successful academic (and that she was of the socioeconomic class that successful academics typically occupy).
4. She Taught English In Italy
After her first marriage to a college sweetheart, the couple moved to Bologna, Italy, where Fiorina taught English to businessmen. "We lived in a shoe-box-sized apartment," she wrote in her 2007 memoir, Tough Choices. "I loved Italy, loved Italians and loved the whole crazy adventure that was our first year of marriage. I learned to drink coffee, learned to drink wine, and learned to make Italian food."
5. She Supports Same-Sex Civil Unions
Addressing the controversy over Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Fiorina released a statement saying government benefits should be extended to same sex couples in civil unions. "The debate about gay marriage is really a debate about how the government bestows benefits and whether they should be bestowed equally," Fiorina said in a statement, according to Bloomberg. "I believe they should. I also believe that people of religious conviction know that marriage is a religious institution with a spiritual foundation because only a man and a woman can create life, which is a gift that comes from God. We must protect their rights as well."
6. She Survived Breast Cancer
In 2009, Fiorina was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. She now advocates for breast cancer screenings.
7. She Spread Digital Technology To Native American Reservations
Fiorina traveled to Native American reservations during her time at AT&T, where she was a sales rep and eventually the head of a spin-off project named Lucent. In that period, she led an effort to bring digitally wired communication to Southern California reservations so tribal entities can communicate with one another.
8. She Was A Trailblazer For Women In Business
She became the first woman to lead a Fortune 500 company when she was named CEO of HP in 1999. Even with AT&T, she was the first Network Systems division's female officer.
No, Fiorina isn't the perfect feminist role model. In fact, she's known for saying in a press conference about her HP hire that the glass ceiling does not exist. But she later elucidated upon her stance on the gender gap, writing in her memoir that women should always follow their ambitions. "I was trying to tell women that although there are plenty of obstacles and prejudices," she wrote, "there isn't some invisible barrier that prevents them from achieving their dreams."