By Emily Davies – Ann Arbor, MI
Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina are two undeniably powerful women who have both shattered gender barriers.
Clinton defied all female stereotypes attached to the role of first lady. She used her public position to become an active and visible national leader, spearheading the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, and involving herself in the creation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. In 2001, she became the first wife of a president to run for national office and the first woman to be elected as the US Senator from New York.
In 2008, Clinton set her sights on shattering yet another glass ceiling and began working toward becoming the first female president of the United States. When President Barack Obama was elected, he appointed Clinton as Secretary of State, a position she held from 2009 to 2013, in which she was involved in countless key decisions. But she hadn’t let go of the dream of becoming the first female president and in the spring of 2015, Clinton announced her candidacy for President of the United States.
Fiorina, much like Clinton, is a trailblazer in her own right for women. After studying medieval history and philosophy in college, she worked as a receptionist and taught English in Italy. She then returned to school, graduating with both a MBA and MS degree. At age 25, Fiorina entered a male-dominated company: AT&T. But by age 30, she was named the head of North American sales. Fiorina then led AT&T in forming a new company (Lucent), which became one of the most successful IPOs (Initial Public Offering) in US history.
Eventually, she became CEO of Hewlett-Packard, making her the first woman to head a Fortune 20 company. In 1998, “Fortune” magazine named her the most powerful woman in business. She has since been a commentator for Fox News, a consultant to John McCain’s 2008 campaign and ran for Congress in California in 2010 (but lost to Democrat incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer).
Despite, or perhaps because of, their decorated resumes, these two successful women have both had their fair share of scandal.
Clinton was first plagued with public controversy in 1993, when she and husband Bill Clinton were involved in an investigation regarding the Whitewater real estate project in Arkansas. Clinton appeared before a federal grand jury, but no charges were filed against her. The Monica Lewinsky scandal further tainted her perception in the public (though it centered around her husband). Clinton came under public scrutiny again during her time as Secretary of State in 2012 when the State Department started an investigation following a fatal attack on a US diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.
She was subjected to heated interrogation, including a recent 11-hour Congressional hearing. Clinton has also been criticized for using her private email account to discuss national business during her time as Secretary of State, and has since released all private emails. Many voters feel her tendency to attract public controversy has left some voters worried and distrustful.
Fiorina is also no stranger to public scrutiny. During her six years of serving as CEO to Hewlett-Packard, the company’s stock lost around half its value and tens of thousands of employees lost their jobs. In 2002, Fiorina decided to merge Hewlett-Packard with Compaq Computers, despite the disapproval of the company’s founders. Though Fiorina claimed Hewlett-Packard was thriving in the wake of her decision to merge, business analysts observed otherwise. In 2005, the HP board of directors met with Fiorina, and she resigned a month later. Her resignation was widely publicized and scrutinized. Her speckled record as a leader has, like Clinton’s, created distrust and hesitation in voters.
Despite their female gender and impressive, yet similarly imperfect resumes, these presidential candidates could not be ideologically further apart.
When it comes to reproductive rights, Clinton and Fiorina are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Clinton defends a “woman’s right to choose” and has fervently defended and supported Planned Parenthood in light of recent attacks. Fiorina, on the other hand, is entirely anti-abortion rights. In the most recent presidential debate, Fiorina described a scene from an anti-Planned Parenthood video, which turned out not to exist. Clinton, meanwhile, has called the desire to shut down Planned Parenthood “the height of irresponsibility.” Though it took her a while to do so, Clinton came out in 2013 in support of the other hot button issue of gay marriage while Fiorina does support some benefits for same-sex couples, but ultimately wants to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.
Fiorina does not support the Iran Nuclear Deal because she believes it doesn’t include harsh enough restrictions on Iran. She believes Clinton underestimates foreign threats such as ISIS and Vladimir Putin. In terms of immigration, Fiorina wants stricter border security. She does, however, advocate for a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants if they graduate from college or serve in the military.
However, Clinton believes the Iran Deal is the best way to prevent a nuclear Iran and has identified ISIS as a serious threat, stating the situation in Syria is furthering the conflict. She wants to help the Syrian rebels in order to subdue ISIS’s power, and advocates for a more open border. She wants people who come to the United States illegally to be able to apply for citizenship if they meet certain criteria (such as paying taxes and learning English).
Fiorina opposes any increase in the federal minimum wage, stating it “will hurt those who are looking for entry-level jobs.” Clinton works to decrease income inequality, and believes raising the federal minimum wage is a necessary first step in equalizing society. Fiorina, unlike other Republican candidates, does acknowledge that human activity causes global warming, however, she has argued against regulation in California aimed at reducing climate-warming emissions, and has been skeptical of international treaties with China to fight climate change. Clinton, on the other hand, understands the reality of global warming and has promised to install .5 billion new solar panels by the end of her first term as President. She has also vowed to generate enough renewable energy to power every home in the country within 10 years of her inauguration.
Both Clinton and Fiorina are gunning for the same honor: to be the first female president of the United States. They have both seen political defeat before , and have each reemerged with new, fiery energy. Clinton and Fiorina seem remarkably similar at first glance – two ambitious and successful women unconstrained by gender stereotypes. They have each shattered female expectations and emerged as leaders in the political battlefield. However, on just about every social, economic and political issue, they are opposites.
The nation will change dramatically based on which one, if either, succeeds.