Just bear with me…because I don’t get it. I’m always for women in politics (well, except for Sarah Palin)…but Meg Whitman just rubs me wrong for the governorship for a number of reasons.
First of all, it feels so out of touch with the regular folk for someone to spend $81M ($71 of her own funds) on a political PRIMARY campaign in a state where there is well above 12% unemployment. Maybe she could have quietly created 2500 one year positions instead at $30K salaries and let grass roots buzz carry her. I know. Just a drop in the bucket, but somehow that might have generated a great positive feeling about how she was going to create jobs, rather than spending oodles on creating just ONE job for herself.
Second, she was the CEO of E-Bay after progressive career hops throughout the 90’s. At the helm, there is no question that she took a very small business and turned it into one of the most successful companies ever. She is a brilliant business woman. She created a structure that allowed for a unique and successful branding exercise and as a result the company experienced exponential growth. Personally, I worked for 10 years for a company that also experienced exponential growth. In growth mode, it is easy to be creative, grow, and aim for bigger, better more. It is worth noting that many of Whitman’s career gains came after the dot com bubble burst and she left e-Bay before this new great depression/recession.
Third, she did take one company from financial ruin to success (FTD). It has been reported that her methods met with a great deal of in-fighting and problems in her dealings with subordinates, employees and flower vendors, which is an indicator of a company cultural conflict. The culture of the company held one position and the change required dictated a cultural change that was not accepted by her staff. She resigned after 4 years. So she was able to make the tough decisions for the financial solvency and growth of the company, but at the cost of the people. That is truly a corporate big business approach. It is different when your salary comes from the taxpayers and when all the people in the government are taxpayer paid. People are not quite as expendable in pursuit of profitability.
Traditional growth restructure doesn’t work in this new economic world. And the government machine isn’t about profits, even though it should break even more than it can be in the red and California is in a terrible fiscal position. Cutting the 40,000 jobs she intends to cut will help government spending, but also result in 40,000 more unemployed workers. I’ve been on both ends of the change management cycle. I’ve been the one to come in and give the ax and I’ve also been axed as a result of change structure. There is nothing morale-building on either end of change.
So, yes, I’m questioning her ability to handle a non-corporate budget crisis in a horrible econonomy coupled with polarized government (yes… the government that allows “secret holds” at federal level to block Obama appointees from being inducted into their positions…but that’s ANOTHER post.)
Would I want Whitman as an advisor? Yes. Even though I’m a Democrat, her experience at a wide range of companies and her meteoric reshaping of e-Bay would make me want to have her experience as a sounding board. Although it would likely never happen, I’d like to see Jerry Brown give the state a shot again and see what he can do, with Whitman as business advisor. Improbable because they’d never see eye to eye, but possibly unique enough to impact both the political and economic impasses. Just a little primary reflecting.