Carly Fiorina speaks on challenges of working in a male-dominated field

By: Jalen Wade

The Robert H. Smith School of Business hosted businesswoman and alumna Carly Fiorina on Tuesday evening in honor of Women’s History Month.

Fiorina is a business leader, philanthropist and former presidential candidate who came to speak as part of the eighth annual “Women Leading Women” forum, an event dedicated to female empowerment and women’s successes in the workplace.

“I think it’s important for women to support other women, and to hear powerful women talk about this topic is inspiring,” said Beth Sapitowicz, a sophomore finance major.

Fiorina stood before a full house at the Stamp Student Union on March 5. She addressed various hardships she’s dealt with as a woman in business and the lessons she’s learned along the way.

Fiorina entered the workforce in the middle of a recession during a time when there were not many jobs available to women. After dropping out of Stanford law, Fiorina found herself working full-time as a receptionist.

“I went to work full-time for a nine-person real estate firm…that was my introduction to business,” Fiorina said.

With the encouragement of her coworkers, Fiorina applied to The Robert H. School of Business. Fiorina was initially rejected after extenuating circumstances kept her from getting her application in on time, but she was accepted after making a call to Rudy Lamone, the former dean of the business school.

“I made a call to Rudy Lamone and said… ‘you should let me in,’” Fiorina said.

Fiorina said one of her greatest career challenges was going to work for AT&T, where she found herself in a job she had little understanding of.

“The management philosophy at that time at a big corporation was ‘throw her into the deep end of the pool, see if she sinks or swims,’” Fiorina said.

Fiorina was one of few women at AT&T, and had to quickly adapt to working in a male-dominated field.

“My first meeting with a client was at a strip club, as that’s where men did business in those days,” Fiorina said.

Fiorina emphasized the importance of having a path over a plan.

“People sometimes say to me, ‘You must have had a plan to be a CEO— that must have been your ambition,” Fiorina said. “The truth is, when I landed at AT&T, my ambition was, ‘please let me hold onto my job.’”

Due to differing political views, Sadia Alao, a junior marketing and theater major, said she didn’t expect Fiorina’s story to resonate with her.

“It really opens my eyes that just because there’s different political parties doesn’t mean you have differing views,” said Alao.

One thing that Fiorina wanted her audience to take away with them that night was the key to good leadership.

“Leadership is about problem-solving,” Fiorina said. Anyone can lead, we all have the capacity to lead and we must lead where we are.”

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