In a call with supporters previewing her speech on the state of women in America tonight at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Carly Fiorina said, “It is important to have this conversation as conservatives. It is important to have this conversation as Republicans.” She invited her followers to acknowledge, yes, women’s potential is still being underutilized. In the S&P 500, she said, only 23 chief executives are women; fewer than the number of CEOs named John. But rather than buy into the liberals’ terms of the debate — feminism means supporting abortion on demand, feminists support a big welfare state — she declared, “We need to redefine feminism. We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism.'” Rather, she says a feminist is anyone who chooses the life she lives.

It’s frankly remarkable that while conservative pundits and scholars have made the same point, chiding the left for swamping what was an equal rights movement with victimology and other habits of thought of left-wing movements, we have not had politicians explicitly do so. That may be a benefit in and of itself in having Fiorina in the race.

Fiorina is employing a key tactic in politics and business — you set the ground rules. If conservatives allow abortion on demand to be the sine qua non of feminism or the amount one wants to spend on Medicaid the measure of one’s concern for women, they will lose. The approach, pardon the pun, is liberating. Women do have higher rates of poverty. Women do have difficulty getting into unions and getting to the top of corporate America. Conservatives don’t have to ignore reality; they do have to offer different solutions however.

It is not coincidental that she is rolling out her big speech at the CEI. She said she wanted to speak to business people, conservatives and both men and women. That right there is different from the usual context of these things when a “woman’s group” gets a talk about women’s advancement. And she stressed she is interested in everyone attaining their full potential — good news for men and boys who seem to have been systematically ignored in these discussions and, for example, attend college in much lower rates than women.

She’s an interesting figure in that her accomplishments — heading a Fortune 500 company — actually were breakthroughs and were independent of her husband. Hillary Clinton rose to attention and power by virtue of her husband. And, frankly, there were plenty of female senators and a few presidential candidates before Clinton. Fiorina also offers the experience of someone who, as she likes to remind her audiences, went from secretary to CEO. (Clinton went from Yale Law School to the governor’s mansion and Rose Law Firm and then to the White House.)

Fiorina’s agenda will include items such as pay for performance (getting rid of seniority that favors men), making over-the-counter birth control available (hat tip to Sen. Cory Gardner), and policies to aid small business, which many women make their livelihood.

All in all, it is rather intriguing, even ingenious, and shows that Fiorina really is bringing something new to the GOP. A Republican Party that acknowledges the difficulties of women and proposes conservative solutions — gasp! — might actually attract more female voters. Her message is distinctive, which in a large field is helpful. And having made it in a male-dominated industry (technology), without a famous name, she is a role model in ways that Hillary Clinton is not. This could get very interesting.