The CEO of computer hardware firm Hewlett-Packard Co. from 1999 through 2005 was ousted three years after the company’s controversial merger with Compaq. Repeatedly named No. 1 on Fortune magazine’s list of the most powerful women in business, she is now author of a memoir, “Tough Choices.” Fiorina will speak at a Women’s Leadership Exchange conference Thursday at the Santa Clara Convention Center, 5001 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara.
You have questioned Fortune magazine’s list of the most powerful female executives. Why? It’s a terrific thing to highlight women leaders … [but] the list sends the wrong message. The list says women have to compete against each other one to 50, because they can’t play with the big boys. It’s not the fact that they’re highlighted that’s the problem. … I think part of the reason we haven’t made as much progress as we should is that women leaders are thought of as different somehow. There is no men’s list.
What is your advice for women in business? I think women need to be both realistic and optimistic. … Realistically, it’s harder still. Optimistically, the 21st century is the most competitive century for business. Bias is becoming an unaffordable luxury. Women should be themselves, bring all of themselves to their work and not carry other people’s prejudices as their burden.
Your life has had many interesting turns. How do you deal with times of great change? First, I think, adaptability is a habit one can learn. I think adaptability is a key skill for people now. We live in rapidly changing times, no matter what profession you’re in. The 21st century is all about change.
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