At first glance, the team that’s been assembled to beef up Hewlett-Packard’s global government affairs office in recent months may not be what one would expect for the lobbying arm of the world’s largest technology company.
The five hires come from a range of backgrounds with expertise in various areas of business, government, and public policy, but their unifying characteristic is that they are all professional women.
“We’ve just been looking for the best people for the job so this is a bit of a coincidence,” said Mèlika Carroll, executive director of global public policy, who joined HP this summer and helped recruit the rest of the staff. “I think you’re looking at the best people for these jobs.”
The courting of these five women is perhaps another nail in the coffin of the notion that a “boys’ club” atmosphere permeates K Street (or thereabouts; HP’s office in Washington is on Pennsylvania Avenue). Hewlett-Packard has made headlines in the past for putting women at its helm— Carly Fiorina, who lost a bid to unseat Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., in November—was HP’s CEO from 1999 to 2005.
In their posts, the HP hires report to Larry Irving, a former technology adviser for the Clinton administration and the Obama transition team, who became vice president of global government affairs in 2009. Carroll, Irving’s chief of staff, is a tech-industry veteran, with past jobs at Intel and Micron Technologies. The native of Canada also brings multinational experience, having worked in the Canadian Parliament after graduating from the University of Ottawa.
Also new on the HP roster:
- Carmela Clendening, political affairs and PAC manager, spent the last five years working for one of the most high-powered women in the country—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Clendening had various roles for the speaker, culminating as mid-Atlantic deputy finance director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and as Pelosi’s finance director in the 2010 election cycle. “The entire experience,” she said, “was extremely inspiring. And to work with great women here is another big step.”
- Jennifer Mulveny, director of global trade policy, began her career as a staff assistant for the House Ways and Means Committee, where she worked on trade policy. In 2004, she joined the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as deputy assistant for congressional affairs to help advance the George W. Bush administration’s trade agenda on Capitol Hill, before moving to work at a private firm.
- Rachel Decker, senior manager of global public affairs communications, took her first job out of college at the Pentagon Renovation Program, a project that had been ongoing since the mid 1990s. Six months later, after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Decker was charged with handling crisis communications. “It was very intense, for me as a public relations person and as a human being,” she said. “That experience at the Pentagon is really a measuring stick by which I measure all career experiences after that.” Decker went from the Pentagon to the State Department, organizing the G-8 summit, and then held public affairs positions at defense contractors Pratt and Whitney and BAE Systems.
- Alden Schacher, director of congressional and federal affairs, was in California for the last 11 years, working as a regional manager of state and local affairs at Electronic Data Systems until it was acquired by HP in 2008. Schacher continued in the same post after the merger, then had a Washington homecoming: She spent 13 years inside the Beltway earlier in her career, including jobs with former Rep. Dave McCurdy, D-Okla., the Information Industry Association, and Dun & Bradstreet.
The five new HP staffers are emblematic of an era when increasing numbers of women are balancing careers and families. “I’ve worked for a lot of strong women who had families, and I think that makes a big difference,” Mulveny said. “I’ve found since I started my family, there’s a lot more understanding and there’s a lot more flexibility.”
But Decker acknowledged there is something unique about the faces assembled around the boardroom in HP’s Washington office. “There’s a lot of female power in this office in terms of really being engaged,” she said. “That’s really inspiring because you don’t see that every day, certainly in Washington.”
This article appears in the December 10, 2010 edition of NJ Daily.