MBA Alumni Spotlight: HP CEO Meg Whitman

Meg Whitman

Meg Whitman has been slaying the business world one corporation at a time. She’s the true definition of a businesswoman who doesn’t play when it comes to her money—and success. She’s currently reigning over Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, but she’s been building her empire for more than 20 years.

And she’s not done.

The CEO of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise set her expectations high from the start. Raised in the wealthy suburbs of Oyster Bay, New York, on Long Island, Whitman has ties to Boston’s elite, reports Business Insider. She eventually left the nest to study at Princeton University. While she initially had interests in medicine, Whitman changed her major to economics, eventually going on to receive her MBA at Harvard Business School.

Her first major gig landed her in Cincinnati in the late ’70s when she joined P&G, a consumer goods corporation. That’s where her feminist leanings truly began to reveal themselves. Whitman learned that the company refused to give female employees company credit cards because it didn’t find it safe for women to travel alone, as Business Insider describes. The lady boss got the company to change that policy. She continues to influence the corporation through its board, on which she sits.

READ MORE: “Top MBA Recruiters: Hewlett-Packard”

From there, it was a wrap. Whitman went on to work for major toy company Hasbro, where she was in charge of the famous Mr. Potato Head, as well as bringing Teletubbies to U.S television. Where Whitman left one of her greatest marks, however, was online retailer eBay. In 10 years, she helped increase the company’s revenue from $4 million to $8 billion, and its employee numbers grew from 30 to 15,000, creating one of the most massive and quick corporate turnarounds in recent memory.

Her hard work there paid off. She moved on to become CEO of Hewlett-Packard in 2011, where she’s transformed the company and even separated it into two entities: Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. That’s where she plans to stay—even amid offers from places like like hyper-valued ride sharing startup Uber. The company was seeking a new CEO, preferably a woman, but she wasn’t interested.

Her time at Hewlett-Packard hasn’t been all sunshine though. She took her role as CEO during turbulent times and was forced to do massive layoffs to salvage the company. The layoffs began in 2012 and continued well into 2015. But making tough decisions is part of what makes Whitman a great leader—at least, in the business world.

Whitman ran for governor of California as a Republican in 2010. Though current politics might show that some people value a leader with a business background Whitman ultimately lost to current Governor Jerry Brown.

Politics may not be her game, but her place in business is abundantly secure. In 2015, she was named 7th overall on Fortune‘s list of highest paid women and 7th on its list of most powerful women. She kept the latter title last year too—and moved up the list when it came to her income. Whitman’s success highlights how far an MBA can take someone, especially women, who aren’t always as welcome in the business world as some of their male colleagues.

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About the Author

Lissett Fun

Lissett Fun is a New York-based reporter covering business and the environment.

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