Carly Fiorina

Remarks on the State of Women in America - June 12, 2015

Carly Fiorina
June 12, 2015— Washington, D. C.
Competitive Enterprise Institute Annual Dinner
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Well, thank you and good evening, everyone. You know I'm really sorry I didn't get the memo about the cowboy boots or the kilt. But, thank you Matt for being a tremendous master of ceremonies and Lawson for your ongoing leadership CEI, and thank so much all you for supporting a wonderful organization. You know I remember when I first joined the board of the American Conservative Union and I got to meet Fred Smith. I remember thinking the first couple times I met him, wow, this guy is so passionate, and he’s so energetic. I've come to learn that really everyone at CEI is that way, so it's a fantastic organization. Thank you for your support of it. I also was recently at an event at CEI and now I understand why there were all those bottles of whiskey in the corner, I get it finally.

When I was a little girl my mother said to me one morning, what you are is God's gift to you, what you make yourself is your gift to God. My mother and father would encourage me always to work hard, to aim high, to find and make the most of my gifts. I must tell you that I did not feel particularly gifted as a young girl or as a young woman. So my mother's words seemed like a promise to me, that I had gifts and a challenge as well, that I need to find and use them. I would start my career as a secretary in a little nine person real-estate firm. Coincidentally, that little nine-person real estate firm was literally one block from the headquarters Hewlett Packard. Where many years later, I would become the Chief Executive. And one day later, I was typing, and filing, and answering the phones in that little company. Two men who worked there approached my desk and said you know we've been watching you, we think you could do more than type and file, do you want to learn something about business? They set me on a path learn something about business. Of course, they did far more than that. Because they saw potential possibilities me, I saw those myself.

Whether it's in business, or charity, or any other human endeavor, my experience tells me that human potential is limitless. I belong to the Burnham Smith and Julian Symons School. Human potential is actually the only limitless resource we have in this world, and it is also the only resource we need to solve every problem. Unfortunately human potential is so often underutilized or worse yet it is squandered and wasted. Last week I was at a fundraising event, I do a lot of that lately, where donors brought their children. Some sons and many, many daughters. At the end of the event, a little girl came up to me and she said, have you ever wished you were someone else? I said, well when I was younger, sometimes I did wish that, but now I know that I am who god intended me to be. Have you ever wanted to be someone else? She kind of looked away and said, I don’t know. She was 10 years old, at that age I don’t know means yes. I reassured her, you are exactly who God intends you to be. I said to her, don't wish to be someone else, and go find out who you are.

It's been ninety five years since women got right to vote, fifty years since the Feminine Mystique, and sixteen years since I was named the first female CEO a Fortune 50 company.

Today, there are only 23 female CEOs in the S&P 500. Fun fact, there are more CEO's named John than there are women CEO’s. Among these same companies, there are only nineteen women for every 100 board members. Eighty-four percent of women strongly agree with the statement that women can lead just as effectively as men, and only 43 percent of men agreed with that statement. Companies headed by male executives, receive ninety-eight percent of all venture capital funding from Silicon Valley. That's a staggering one point eight eight billion dollars. Compared to just 32 million dollars from women. Recent studies from the NYU child studies center suggest girl’s self-esteem peaks at 9, and declines from there. I believe it is time to have a conversation about the state of women in America.

Women represent half of all human potential. Women around the world continue to be subjugated and marginalized. Here in this country, where women without a doubt have more opportunities than anywhere else on earth, we still can make our country a better place by fully tapping potential of women. Today women hold nearly 48 percent of all US jobs. Up from 37 percent forty years ago. By 2011 this relatively small increase in Woman’s participation in the workforce, accounted one quarter of our GDP. In other words more than a stunning three-and-a half trillion dollars was generated by the increase in women's participation in the economy. That's greater than the GDP of Germany, and greater than half of the GDP of both China and Japan. Additionally the data’s clear, companies with more women on boards directors out perform their competitors. In other words, the facts are clear, the data is in. Realizing the potential of women isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. And I hasten to add, so as not to make any our beloved men in this room uncomfortable, not because women are better than men, but because women represent half of the human potential.

We know that the status quo is a powerful force. Change is always difficult and slow. Whether it is in Washington D.C. or in the nation. I've experienced this reality first hand and I know that unfortunately we still do not have a level playing field. When I first started AT&T right here in Washington D.C., at 20th and L. That’s where I met my husband Frank, who is here with me tonight, 34 years ago in Washington D.C. My very first job my male colleagues decided that we would hold our first business meeting with new clients at a strip club. When I got into a cab that morning, the way I came up when, how many you ladies here remember “How to Dress for Success for Women,” bow ties, you know shirts closed up to the collar. When I got into the cab and gave him the address of where I was going, he whipped around in his seat and said, oh, you the new act? A few years later my boss would introduce me to my new subordinates as the “token bimbo”. When I started at HP, I was also called a bimbo, and a word that also starts with a B rhymes with witch. Words that we’re definitely not used to describe the male counterparts at other companies. Just last month, in fact, reporter said that he had never talked to a Presidential candidate with pink nail polish. Another reporter asked me if my hormones prevented me from serving in the oval office. So here's a question for all of you ladies. Can you think of a single instance in which a man's judgment might be clouded by hormones?

Yes, now women might make up 45 percent the labor force for S&P 500 companies. However, the majority of low-paying jobs are held by women, who make up over half minimum earners. 18 million women live in poverty, a quarter all US families are headed by a single mother. We have made undeniable progress, but we still have a very long way to go.

Which brings me to another question which I was asked by child at that fundraiser that I told you about. This one by a man, a rather precocious young man I must say, who asked me, what is feminism? Feminism began of course as a rallying cry to empower women to vote, to go get an education, to enter the workplace. But over the years feminism has evolved into a left- leaning political ideology where women are pitted against men, and used as a political weapon to win elections. Being empowered means having a voice. But ideological feminism shuts down the conversation, on college campuses and in the media. If you are a man or a woman who doesn't believe the litanies of the left, then you are waging a war on women. You are, as I was recently called by Planned Parenthood, a threat to women’s health. Or you are variously described window-dressing, Joni Ernst, or offensive as a candidate, Carly Fiorina.

The progressive view of feminism is not about women. It is about ideology. And their policies, those of progressive left, are not working for women. The economic policies of this administration have been devastating. Three million women have fallen into poverty in the last six years along. One million fewer women are working under President Obama. In California, a state my husband and I lived for 12 years, in California, a state that has been governed by liberal policies for over a decade, they have high poverty rates in the nation, with over three million women living below the poverty line. Today, only 23 percent American women identify with the term feminist. Liberal ideas are not the answer. Their version of feminism is not working. It’s time for a new definition. And so here’s what I told that little boy, a feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses. We will have arrived, when every woman can decide for herself, how to best find use her God-given gifts. A woman may choose to have five children and homeschool them, she may choose to become a CEO or to become a candidate. I'm a conserve, because I know we are all equal in the eyes God, men and women alike. Our principles work better, to lift men and women up. So that they can choose their own path, and live lives of dignity, and purpose, and meaning. Which is what every human being wants.

Research shows that private sector companies that have diverse workforces have important things in common. They have leaders who are actively engaged in and committed to increasing diversity. They talk about diversity regularly, not as good thing to do but as a business imperative. They recognize the important role that women play, and they ensure that outstanding women receive the sponsorship and the professional development they need. They don't compromise standards, the contrary actually, they ruthlessly cultivate meritocracies, and ensure that the most talented people men and women have equal access to opportunities to throughout the ranks.

We did all these things at HP during my tenure. We also a led a process in which my senior team and I would spend time regularly, looking at all the open positions in the company above a certain level. I insisted that there be a diversified and qualified set of candidates for every job, and then we selected the best person from there. By the end of my tenure, half of my direct reports were women. They rose on merit. But there's another side to this story. Less than a year after I was fired those practices were abandoned and sixty percent those women were gone. Meritocracies are perishable. There are many things that we can and must do, to ensure that all women can't truly choose their own path and truly fulfil their potential.

The first, is we must encourage and foster those meritocracies. Let's look at the federal government for a moment, despite it already being law, the left wants to further legislate equal pay. And yet, the left also supports seniority systems, in government and unions that reward not merit, not performance but time and grade. We know the system's pay for years worked, rather than performance. Disproportionately impacting women. And these seniority systems have perverse consequences. How often do we see, yet another, inspector general report that says, that in one or another agency you can watch pornography all day long, and earn the same pay, pension and benefits as someone sitting next to you and trying to do a good job. This is something that government can change. We as conservatives and libertarians, people who believe in merit and excellence, let's work together to move to a pay-for-performance meritocracy in the federal government, and make promoting high achieving men and women a priority.

We also need to give the women tools they need to rise through those meritocracies. And that starts with reforming our education system. There is some very good news here. In the last forty years we have drastically improved a woman's chance of earning a post-graduate degree and certainly graduating from college. In 2010, in fact, women started to surpass men, in the attainment of advanced degrees. But it's also true that it’s especially critical for low-income women and families that we fix are broken education system. Every parent deserves a choice as to how to best educate their children so that every child has a chance to fulfil their potential. You’ll recall it when Mayor Bill de Blasio was running for office in New York City one of his platforms was to limit school choice. And who were the people who walked across the bridge to the city, to protest? Low-income families who said you are not going to take away the only chance my child has. A few years ago, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union said that the teachers union could not be held accountable for performance students in their classrooms, because too many of those students were poor, and came from broken families. What was that head of the teachers union saying? She in essence was saying was, if you're poor, and you come from a broken family, you don't have potential, and you can't learn. That is not what we believe, and that is not the American Way. In California, students fought back arguing that their constitutional right to equal education was being violated by state laws that protected grossly ineffective teachers, and the students won in court. In Louisiana, this administration sued to shut down a program that allowed students to leave their failing public schools. That's right, the government sued to put disadvantaged kids back into failing school systems. The left is on the wrong side this issue. It is hurting boys, it is hurting girls, it is hurting low-income people in particular. They continue to protect the status quo and teachers unions and it is hurting our children.

We also know that if we care about unlocking the potential of women, that we must reduce wedlock births. Single mothers face a significant uphill battle, for themselves and their children. Single mothers earn less, they gain fewer promotions. In fact, single mothers earn nineteen thousand dollars per year on average less than married mothers. Unfortunately, out-of-wedlock births are on the rise. In 2012, the federal government estimated that over 40 percent of all births, were out-of-wedlock. Women need to have access to all the information and the resources they need to make positive decisions about their family's future. So speaking about protecting the status quo, while left fights to protect late-term abortions, and sues the little sisters of the poor, to enforce Obamacare mandates, they oppose over-the-counter birth control. It is time for over-the counter birth control. Which will drive down prices, and increase availability. When Claritin moved over the counter, the price was cut in half in less than a year, and today you can get a month's supply of what once was a very expensive drug for three dollars.

Of course to support women and men, to support Americans in this nation, we have to support small business. Women-owned businesses are vitally important to our economy. Just as small businesses are, we know that most Americans start out the way I did, in a small business. We have come to the place in this nation, where for the first time in our history, we are now destroying more businesses we are creating. It is the small and family-owned businesses that are being crushed, meanwhile crony capitalism continues on. Because of course, as we well know, when government is big, and costly, and complicated, is not only increasingly inept and corrupt, but only the big, powerful, wealthy, and well-connected, can deal with all of that complexity. So we continue to crush small businesses. Women-owned businesses are vitally important to this economy, with nearly 10 million companies that generate trillions of dollars in revenue.

For the same reason that women are forty percent less likely to run yellow traffic lights, women make safer, less volatile investments. I will tell you that is the chairman of Opportunity International, ninety-three percent of our clients are women, because it turns out they're better credit risks than men. But the sheer complexity of regulations handed down from Washington as we well know our crushing these businesses. In addition, Dodd-Frank has caused many, many, hundreds, thousands of community banks to go under, and these community banks are the very ones that give so many new, small, struggling businesses, in particular women-owned businesses, their first loans. So, as you well know, we have to rollback these regulations and simplify the tax code, so that small women-owned businesses, small businesses of all kinds, have the fair chance for success they deserve.

Lastly, if we truly care about women in this country, and in our world, we have to tackle the webs of dependence that are trapping women. We need a top to bottom review of every economic development and assistance program that we have. To ensure that we encourage women and men to strive, instead of to settle. Because they're is dignity in all work. As I travel the country, and charity work, and politics, and business as well, I often meet single moms who have had the courage to bring their children into the world. Like all of us, because it is an innate and human desire, and capacity, they too want to live lives with dignity and purpose and meaning. But unfortunately they face great risk. Our government programs create all the wrong incentives, if you were single mom on food stamps, and you and your children are depending on them, these programs make it so difficult to strive for more.

Knowing that your decisions affect not only your own life, but the lives of your children as well. It means the risk of up giving up government subsidies, for a job that may not exist in a month. Women are frequently last hired, and first fired. So if that happens to you, as a woman, it means going back to the welfare office, ashamed and wondering whether you still qualify for benefits, and can afford to buy diapers for your baby. These women's fears are not unfounded. Under our current system, a woman who was making less than thirty thousand dollars a year, is actually punished by these programs. If she is offered a raise, to say fifty-five thousand dollars, she will take home less to her family and be ineligible for the benefits on which she, and her children, we're depending. In fact, regardless of income, women are more likely to be downwardly mobile than men.

The bottom line is that our policies in government today, make tough decisions, even tougher. We have too many people tangled up in webs of dependence that we have created. Our government programs, just like our regulations on our tax code, our seniority systems, and our government programs must be reimagined from top to bottom. Not because we want to save taxpayer dollars, although we will. But because we want to save lives. At the end fundraiser, that I referenced earlier, one other parents asked me to give their children some parting words of advice. So I said, aim high. We must aim high as a nation. We must aim high in our families, and in our communities. We must encourage boys and girls, men and women, to aim high in their lives. Aiming high is in the American spirit. Aiming high not only built this nation, it has unviewed the character of our citizens. Lowering expectations has become a virtue. To those on the left to wring their hands at the notion striving for excellence. To them, we answer. As a nation aiming high is what has set us apart as Americans.

My story, from secretary to CEO, is only possible in this country. And that is because our founders knew what my mother taught me. Everyone has God-given gifts. Our founders build a nation on the belief that here you have the right to fulfill your potential. That is what they meant when they said life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. They said you have right to fulfill your potential, and that right comes from God, and should not be taken away by man or government. Let us build a nation, where every American knows their lives are filled with the possibilities that come from their God-given gifts. Let us ensure that this nation, in this, the 21st century, is a nation in which every person knows they can live a life of dignity, and purpose, and meaning.

Let us together, Aim high. And encourage every boy and every girl to do the same. Thank you so very much, ladies and gentleman.

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