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Carly Fiorina

‘We presume men are competent’: Carly Fiorina on the challenges women face at work


One of the biggest common denominators in the wave of sexual harassment scandals that have plagued the media, businesses, and politics this month is that men who have more power than women, abuse their power to get what they want. But how did men get all that power?

"Here's the fundamental difference. A man is granted the presumption of competence. When we see a man in a job or trying for a job we presume he's competent. We presume he can do it. We don't presume that about women," said former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

"Women are not given the benefit of the doubt, they're not given presumption of competence. They have to earn it. They have to prove it over and over again," Fiorina, who ran for president in 2016, said in an exclusive interview with Circa.

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Fiorina explained that because men are given this presumption in the workplace, they tend to accumulate power faster that women.

"Those men who chose to abuse their power in most instances they have more power than the women around them and so it is women who are subject to that abuse of power," Fiorina said.

A major stumbling block for many women starting out in their careers is the financial burden of a college education, often resulting in costly student loans.

For comparison, when Fiorina attended college in the 1970s, the average college tuition was around $1,200 per year. Now, students pay nearly ten times that amount on average.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2013, 34 percent of jobs in the U.S. require employees to have at least a bachelors degree and its estimated that as many as 44 million people in the U.S. have student loans totaling more than $1.4 trillion.

Despite these massive loans, Fiorina said she thinks women today are even more empowered to succeed that she was when she first started out.

"Don't worry about the perfect job. Just get a job," Fiorina advised, "Start. Start somewhere. I don't care whether it's answering the phones or flipping burgers. Just start to work and I think sometimes young people have this expectation that the first job needs to be this great job maybe because they feel this financial pressure or maybe because they feel the competitive pressure of being able to talk about their first job. Whatever job you get, you're going to learn things. You're going to learn things about yourself. You're going to learn things about the world around you. You're going to skills and those skills and those lessons are going to help you get the next job. So go to work, get a job, give it everything you have. Somebody is going to notice if you do a good job and when they notice and when opportunity knocks don't be afraid to walk through the door and take a chance."

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Check out more stories from Circa:
'I was reduced to my sexuality': We talked with Carly Fiorina about sexism and harassment

'My candidacy was called offensive': Carly Fiorina says campaigning is harder for GOP women

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