Sen. Max Baucus told Meg Whitman she was Sheryl Sandberg before there was a Sheryl Sandberg last week before he asked for Whitman’s advice about how Montana women can get ahead in the workplace.

Now the Hewlett-Packard Co. president and CEO, Whitman founded eBay and ran for governor of California. She was listed as the sixth most-powerful woman in business on Forbes’ 2012 list.

On Tuesday during the Montana Economic Development Summit, Whitman spoke via live satellite feed about the role technology and innovation are playing in a rapidly changing world.

Whitman was one of several top women executives that spoke at the summit. Sandberg, whose “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” spurred a renewed conversation nationwide about gender equality in the workplace, spoke Monday at the summit.

What was Whitman’s answer to Baucus’ question about what Montana women can do to get ahead in the workplace?

First, Whitman said, find something you love to do.

“We’re going to spend a lot of time at work,” she said. “Find your passion.”

Next, Whitman said, have confidence in yourself.

“I’m quite an admirer of this next generation. I think they have a lot more confidence than my generation did,” Whitman said.

Whitman told a story of her first experience of gender discrimination during training at her first job at Procter and Gamble.

“After the first day of training, everyone got a credit card except the four girls,” Whitman said. “We told the instructor, ‘I’m sure there’s a mistake here but we’re the only four here that didn’t get credit cards.’ ”

They were told the company didn’t think it was safe for women to travel alone. It took Whitman and the other women a few weeks to secure the credit cards.

Whitman then reiterated her advice for women in the workplace: have confidence and love what you do, adding that whatever you do, do it really well.

“The other advice I always give people,” Whitman said, “whether they’re male or female, is to be easy to work with.”

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Reporter Jenna Cederberg can be reached at 523-5241 or at jenna.cederberg@missoulian.com.

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