Cause of Choice: Teach for America
Biggest Influence Never Met: Margaret Thatcher
Princeton Pioneer: She was in the fourth class of women admitted to Princeton University, the first to go through all four years.
Childhood Ambition: To be a doctor. She changed paths in college, but married a neurosurgeon.
Meg Whitman is not your typical Silicon Valley tycoon. Not only the rare woman in a largely male club, Whitman was neither a tech geek nor web-obsessed venture capitalist when she took the helm of eBay, then a small collectibles auction site, in 1998, and transformed it into one of the tech world’s most admired success stories.
Growing up in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Whitman graduated high school in three years before attending Princeton University. She earned her BA in economics in 1977 and continued to Harvard University for her MBA. After getting her start at Proctor and Gamble, Whitman cut her teeth as a consultant for Bain & Co. and then in various leadership positions at Disney, Stride Rite, Florists Transworld Delivery (FTD), and Hasbro.
Recruited by a headhunter in 1998, Whitman joined eBay when it had 30 employees and revenues of approximately $4 million. During her time as CEO, the company grew to approximately 15,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenue by 2008. Whitman has received numerous awards and accolades for her work at eBay. On more than one occasion, she was named among the top five Most Powerful Women by Fortune Magazine and, in 2010, Harvard Business Review named her the eighth-best-performing CEO of the past decade.
In February 2009, Whitman announced her candidacy for Governor of California, becoming the third woman in a twenty-year period to run for the office. She won the Republican primary in 2010, but lost to Democrat Jerry Brown in the general election. In 2011, Whitman was named the President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard.