Books: When the going gets tough ...

The career of the world's first global businesswoman is an object lesson in both the opportunities and stumbling-blocks facing women at work, says Val Gooding.

This book is a first: the first autobiography by a female CEO of a major business. Carly Fiorina topped Fortune's list of the world's most powerful businesswomen five years running, making her famous everywhere. The publisher's blurb has 'Victim' written all over it. It suggests the author believes she was 'a target for everyone who disliked her bold leadership style and resented her rapid rise'. Don't be put off. Although the book is occasionally self-indulgent in this respect, in the circumstances Fiorina can be forgiven.

It's an intriguing read, opening with the words: 'In the end, the board did not have the courage to face me. They did not thank me and they did not say goodbye.' Fiorina's story takes you right through her career to that day when she left Hewlett-Packard.

The determination that was to mark her later career had its origins in her childhood: parents who 'pursued excellence in everything they did' and 'were not sympathetic to fear, insecurity or self-doubt'. Despite her best efforts to please, 'there were many times when I felt as though no matter what I did, it simply wasn't quite as much as they expected ... When I came home with my first report card, which contained one B and seven A's, they reminded me that I was capable of straight A's.'

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