Fab, Fearless Females: Carly Fiorina

By: Susan Berman Hammer

“What you are is God’s gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift to God.” - Essential life lesson from Carly Fiorina's Mom.

In spite of the controversy that often swirls around the fearless, bold and driven Carly Fiorina, the 61-year-old continues to follow advice from her Mom when she's faced with tough decisions at key junctures throughout her life.

During her six-year stint (1999-2005) at Hewlett-Packard (HP) as president, then CEO and chairman, she was named “the most powerful woman in American business” by Fortune magazine. She was also the first woman to lead a top-20 company as ranked by Fortune. Eventually, however, Fiorina's nasty and public battles with the HP Board as well as HP's declining stock value led to her forced resignation on February 9, 2005.

Even though she received a severance package from HP of about $21 million and has a net worth of $59 million, Fiorina was driven toward finding a new, even more fulfilling purpose in her life. 

What she's done since her departure from HP

  • Wrote a popular book titled, Tough Choices: A Memoir, in 2006 and traveled to promote it.
  • Became an adviser to the Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) 2008 Presidential campaign until she disappeared from the scene following her comments about Sarah Palin and McCain.
  • Ran for the U.S. Senate in California in 2010 against long-time incumbent Barbara Boxer (D-CA), but lost by 10 percentage points.
  • Sat on the Boards of the World Economic Forum, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, James Madison University and Opportunity International.
  • Became a Fox Business Network Commentator in 2007.
  • Chaired the non-profit philanthropic organization, Good360 since 2012. Good360 is the world's largest product philanthropy organization; it teams up with large and small companies worldwide to distribute excess merchandise to needy people. And,
  • Chaired the One Woman Initiative (OWI) Fund since 2013.

But these accomplishments pale by comparison to Fiorina's latest goal of winning the 2016 Presidential Election. Her campaign has said that she wants “to break the highest, hardest ceiling of all.”

Fiorina announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination on May 4, 2015. And now – some five months later - she has battled her way to the top tier of GOP contenders and secured a prime time slot in the Republican Debates.

Next GOP Debate: Wednesday, October 28 on CNBC

Two debates down and nine more to go, Carly!!! Tune in to watch Fiornia in the next GOP debate on CNBC, Wednesday, October 28 at 7 p.m. CT when she will join the other qualifying GOP candidates at the University of Colorado in Boulder. (Each qualifying candidate received at least a 3% polling average.) 

Personal Background

Carly Fiorina was born Cara Carleton Sneed in Austin, TX on September 6, 1954. But, her family moved from Austin when her Dad's legal career required them to relocate. Her father, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, later became Dean of the Duke University School of Law, Deputy U.S. Attorney General and eventually, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California. Her mother was an abstract painter.

Fiorina married her first husband Todd Bartlem in 1977 and they divorced in 1984. According to those who knew them, her ex-husband was threatened by Fiorina's success. An article in The Washington Post said Fiorina's ex-husband still takes shots at her, telling a biographer in 2003: "I wish I could wish her the best, but I don't. I want to see her fail." 

In 1985, she married Frank Fiorina whom she met when they were both executives at AT&T. Fiorina became step-mother to her second husband's two daughters (though their biological Mom had custody). Later, Frank Fiorina decided to retire in his 40's and travel with her. She and Frank Fiorina are now grandparents to a two-year-old grand-daughter named Carly.

The Fiorinas currently live on the Potomac River in Mason Neck, VA, about 40 miles outside of Washington, DC. They have no biological children. One of her step-daughters - Lori Ann – who suffered from substance abuse and bulimia - died at age 35 in 2009, the same year Fiorina was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.

Fiorinia graduated from Stanford with a B.A.in medieval history and philosophy. She enrolled in UCLA Law School, but quit after one semester. Later, she earned an MBA in Marketing from the University of Maryland and an M.S. in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management.

Before her positions at HP, Fiorina served as President of Lucent Technologies from 1996-1999, a spin-off of AT&T. She started her career at AT&T in 1980 and rose through the ranks to become an executive. In 15 years, she went from an entry-level employee to leading Lucent Technologies and, later, Lucent's North American operations.

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As she reflects on her life and purpose, Fiorina concludes:

“The truth is, I’m proud of the life I’ve lived so far, and though I’ve made my share of mistakes, I have no regrets.”

Learn more about her views on a myriad of issues from Putin, Syria, gun control and the California drought to DC gridlock, abortion, family leave and education. Watch her videos here. You can also submit your questions directly to Carly. In addition, you can follow her on Facebook  or Twitter.

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Susan Berman Hammer brings more than 35 years of professional communications, management and parenting experience as well as journalism training to The Honey Good team of writers. Susan is also PR counsel and a business strategist to HoneyGood.com. Susan previously served as the Senior VP-Account Supervisor of a Chicago PR agency and later headed her own agency. She earned graduate and undergraduate degrees from Northwestern University. Follow Susan on Twitter: @SueBermanHammer