Carly Fiorina Drives a Gender Campaign


Carly Fiorina has started her presidential bid with a campaign focused on her gender as she pursues a dream of becoming the first female President of the United States, but this may have backfired on her.  She was the first lady to lead a Fortune 20 business and now wants to make history in the Oval Office, but has implied as sexist, a question asked by a journalist that was inquiring whether she would be interested in serving as vice president.

TechCrunch’s Sarah Lane finished her interview with the former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard with a question about the vice presidential position of which Fiorina responded with a query of her own, implying that the question would not be asked of a man running for president. When Lane replied that she would ask this question of male candidates, Fiorina finally said the presidential position was the only job she was running for and she believed she was capable of being President of the United States. She responded to the same question in a similar fashion, the first time was with reporter Katie Couric.

The issue surrounding the vice presidency is indeed the basis of a question that has been asked of male presidential candidates, particularly those like Fiorina, who are considered as only having a slim chance of winning the party’s nomination. It is in fact a reason why many politicians have run campaigns with a long shot. Interestingly, this question about serving as vice president has been asked so many times of presidential hopefuls that the New York Times had dubbed it as the “worst question” of the 2004 election because journalists continued to ask it of former North Carolina Senator John Edwards at every opportunity on his campaign trail. Edwards responded to the question in the exact same “boring” way every time it was asked, yet he ended up being the running mate of John Kerry, proving that it was not a bad question.

Fiorina’s response to the question of the vice presidency job has disappointed some people, particularly since it came during the interview with the TechCrunch reporter when Fiorina had successfully highlighted the unique skills a woman could bring to the presidency role. She had spoken in favor of both parties having female candidates, with Hillary Clinton running for the Democrats. The Republican nominee believed women have the upper hand when it comes to longer discussions about policy issues. The presidential election of 2016 will definitely see gender playing a role, with Clinton on top of the Democratic field, and both ladies vigorously fighting to break the highest glass ceiling in the United States. Interestingly, Clinton avoided making gender an issue in her 2008 campaign, as Barack Obama, the current President of the United States and her then opponent drove a primary campaign focused on being the first African-American to take up seat in the Oval Office. Her concession speech was the first time she used gender as a strong focus point. “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it,” she said in her speech. Moving forward, Fiorina needs to make sure she plays the gender card correctly and therefore to her advantage.

She is in a prime position to enact meaningful change for 53 percent of the American people. When she was in charge of Hewlett-Packard, which at the time was America’s 11th biggest company, Fiorina was responsible for doubling revenue. This major technology company had sales of $42 billion when she started in July 1999 and she left Hewlett-Packard with an impressive $87 billion in sales in 2005. This successful tenure in a position dominated by men could hold her in good stead for the presidency position.

In a poll conducted by CBS News and New York Times, a staggering result showed that people felt it was time to elect a female president, with nearly nine in 10 Democrats feeling this way. The poll was conducted as a phone survey, from April 30 to May 3, with the sample including 1027 adults. Fiorina could use this poll to her advantage by playing the gender card at the right times and her address on the inequalities for women in the workplace is definitely a great start, considering her involvement at the top of Hewlett-Packard.

Opinion by Rebecca Brown


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Photo by Gage Skidmore – Creativecommons Flickr License

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