Queens of Silicon Valley seek high office in US

9 Jun 2010

Two of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley – former HP CEO Carly Fiorina and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman – are battling to get to the pinnacle of the US political word.

Fiorina has succeeded against US congressman Tom Campbell in being nominated by the Republican party to take on incumbent senator Barbara Boxer later this year for a seat in the US senate.

Meanwhile, Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay and a billionaire to boot, has prevailed against Steve Poizner to challenge Gerry Brown, California’s attorney general, to vie for the role of governor of California after Arnold Schwarzenegger leaves office.

Stanford graduate Fiorina began her working life in various secretarial and reception roles and as she rose the corporate ladder busted her way through the business stereotype of the glass ceiling. She joined AT&T as a management trainee in 1980, rose to become senior vice-president and led the spinoff of Lucent from AT&T.

By 1998, Forbes ranked Fiorina as America’s most powerful businesswoman. In 1999, Fiorina became CEO of the world’s largest technology company Hewlett-Packard. In the wake of the bursting of the dot.com bubble in 2002, Fiorina fought an infamous proxy battle with the Hewlett family over her decision to acquire Compaq and prevailed. Fiorina left Hewlett-Packard after a highly-publicised boardroom battle in 2005.

Princeton graduate Whitman began her career in 1979 as a brand manager for Proctor & Gamble and worked her way through the ranks to eventually rise to a vice-president role at Walt Disney. She joined eBay in 1998 when the company had only 30 employees and grew the company to 15,000 employees and US$8bn in revenue by 2008.

On her first day at eBay, the site was black and white, was largely written in Courier font and crashed for eight hours. She organised the company by splitting it into 23 business categories and assigned executives to each, with 35,000 sub-categories. She resigned from eBay in 2007 and was inducted into the US Business Hall of Fame in 2008.

Photo: Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years