Tweet Exposes a Big Problem With How We Talk About Carly Fiorina

December 12th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

Former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina reportedly met with President-elect Donald Trump on Monday to discuss a position in his cabinet. However the meeting to discuss the Director of National Intelligence position was controversial for a sexist reason.

Trump has a history of making remarks about Fiorina's appearance, and Wall Street Journal columnist Brett Stephens implied that Fiorina was letting women down because she met with Trump.

Bret Stephens' tweet.

The tweet points to comments that Trump made last year about Fiorina during the presidential campaign. "Look at that face! Would anybody vote for that?" Trump told Rolling Stone in an interview.

However, other people, including Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, called out Stephens' tweet as sexist, because he made Fiorina responsible for men's sexist behavior towards her. 

The reactions make two important points: previous male adversaries also met with Trump but were not considered bad examples for men, and women in business — from 1999 until 2005 Fiorina was CEO of Hewlett-Packard— often have to put up with sexist behavior in order to advance in a career. 

Before the election Mitt Romney spoke out about Trump's controversial comments on grabbing women "by the p*ssy," but after Trump won he had dinner with the president-elect. Romney received internet backlash, but it did not make him a bad example for men, like the criticism of Fiorina. 

And like many career women, Fiorina has endured sexism in her field.

Fiorina's tenure as CEO of HP is one that is still contested: she was at the helm of the company during the dot-com bubble, a rough time for many technology companies. But critics — including a fact check by Fortune — have rated her performance as CEO poorly, citing plummeting stocks and massive layoffs.

While climbing the ranks, however, Fiorina encountered workplace sexism, including meetings set with clients at strip clubs. Vox describes it:

"Determined not to be intimidated, she went to the meeting anyway and tried to ignore the unconventional setting. Dancers had pity on her and refused to come to the table while she was there. And her stubbornness paid off — her embarrassed colleagues stopped scheduling meetings at strip clubs."

During her run for the Republican presidential nomination last year, Fiorina also received the criticism after the first debate that she should smile more, a critique that male candidates rarely receive. Fiorina talked about the sexist comment on live television in the second debate.

Career women can probably relate to Carly Fiorina. 

Back in May, ATTN: talked to Victor Eduardo Sojo, a researcher at The Centre for Ethical Leadership at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences in Australia. He said that there is a wide range of sexist behavior women put up with at work every day. 

"People making sexist jokes, receiving sexist emails that are later construed as jokes, being asked questions about your personal life, particularly aspects of your sexual life or identity, people questioning your gender identity, people might insinuate you are less of a woman if you work in a male dominated area or are more assertive than they expect you to be," he told ATTN: in May. "I can keep going on here, the point is that there is a diverse and wide range of harmful experiences that women are exposed to at work."

RELATED: Carly Fiorina Just Called out a Classic Sexist Expectation of Women