Ex-chief of HP details sexism in Silicon Valley

// 16 October 2006

A former Hewlett-Packard CEO has described the obstacles she faced as a woman trying to climb the corporate ladder, after years of denying the existence of the glass ceiling.

Maureen Dowd reports on Carly Fiorina’s autobiography, which reveals how she insisted on attending business meetings held in strip clubs and faced years of back-biting and double standards.

"I was scared to death," she writes, adding that she wore her most conservative dress-for-success business suit and little bow tie, carried her briefcase like "a shield of honor," and repeated the mantra, "I am a professional woman," even when her cabdriver asked her if she was the new act for the club, where babes in see-through negligees danced on tables.

"In a show of empathy that brings tears to my eyes still," she recounts, "each woman who approached the table would look the situation over and say: \x91Sorry, gentlemen. Not till the lady leaves.\x92 "

"In the chat rooms around Silicon Valley, from the time I arrived until long after I left HP, I was routinely referred to as either a \x91bimbo\x92 or a \x91bitch,\x92 she writes. "Too soft or too hard, and presumptuous, besides." She adds: "I watched with interest as male C.E.O.\x92s fired people and were hailed as \x91decisive.\x92 I was labeled \x91vindictive."

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