- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2005

Hewlett-Packard Co. ousted Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina yesterday, leaving only seven female chief executive officers among the nation’s Fortune 500 companies.

The Palo Alto, Calif., computer giant accepted the resignation of Mrs. Fiorina, one of the most powerful women in business, after disagreements over the company’s 2002 purchase of Compaq Computer that failed to produce the profits Hewlett-Packard sought.

She was appointed head of the technology giant, the nation’s 11th-largest corporation, in 1999.

“While I regret the board and I have differences about how to execute HP’s strategy, I respect their decision,” said Mrs. Fiorina, 50, who is expected to collect a severance package worth $21.1 million.

Her salary and bonus totaled $3.5 million last year, and she was the first woman named CEO, chairman and president of a big computer company.

Among Fortune 500 companies, only 13.6 percent of corporate board members are women, according to a survey by Catalyst Inc., a New York nonprofit research and advisory organization on women’s business.

“What we heard from women provided evidence there is still a glass ceiling in place,” said Paulette Gerkovich, Catalyst’s senior research director. “Just under one half of women told us they faced exclusion from informal networks, gender-based stereotypes and a lack of role models.”

The survey of 948 executives found that 5.2 percent of the five highest-paid corporate officers in Fortune 500 companies were women.

The remaining female chief executives of last year’s Fortune 500 companies are Ann Mulcahy, Xerox; Mary Sammons, Rite Aid; Patricia Russo, Lucent Technologies; Andrea Jung, Avon; S. Marce Fuller, Mirant; Eileen Scott, Pathmark Stores; and Marion Sandler, Golden West Financial Corp.

Recruited from Lucent, Mrs. Fiorina staked her reputation on the $24.2 billion Compaq purchase. The acquisition has failed to boost profit, and HP lost its lead in the personal-computer market to Dell Inc.

“The Compaq merger was a fiasco right from the start,” analyst Jason Maxwell told Bloomberg News.

His Los Angeles firm, TCW Group Inc., manages $100 billion and owns Hewlett-Packard shares.

The company’s shares rose $1.39, or 6.9 percent, to $21.53 on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday. The stock has fallen 55 percent since Mrs. Fiorina was named CEO.

Despite any obstacles female chief executives might face, some of their peers think opportunities for them are improving.

“I think that’s changing,” said Tita Freeman, spokeswoman for the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers from 160 of the nation’s largest companies. “I think more and more women are finding their way into chief executive offices and boardrooms.”

Among the great success stories is Meg Whitman, president and CEO of EBay, the world’s largest Internet marketplace and one of the nation’s fastest-growing large companies.

Peter Sorrentino, chief investment officer for Bartlett & Co., a Cincinnati investment management firm, said more important than gender for a chief executive is “what you can deliver in terms of operations performance.”

“I’m sure on some issues the gender issue is there, but I think for anyone who is a serious investor … I don’t think that factors into the decison-making at all,” Mr. Sorrentino said.

Women who want to succeed in business are more likely to start their own businesses than try to ascend the corporate ladder, said Julie Weeks, executive director of the National Women’s Business Council, a federally funded policy-advisory organization on women-owned businesses.

The National Women’s Business Council said 47 percent, or 10.6 million, of the nation’s businesses are at least 50 percent owned by women. However, most of them are small businesses.

“Women have to juggle an awful lot; not only professional responsibilities, but also family responsibilities,” Ms. Weeks said.

In addition to more time commitments, women sometimes have social norms stacked against them, she said.

“There’s certainly a stereotype or perception that women aren’t as tough in business situations,” Ms. Weeks said.

Jean Hollands, chief executive officer of the Growth & Leadership Center, a corporate-psychology counseling center in Mountain View, Calif., said female executives are more likely to lose their jobs if they fail to meet social expectations of men.

“They’re measured by their performance, but they’re also measured by how they get along with people,” Miss Hollands said. “They cannot afford emotionality, and they cannot afford temper tantrums.”

They also must confront a double standard, she said.

“They may have had a model of a man who could stomp his foot and pound his fist on the table and get away with it, but a woman can’t do that as easily,” said Miss Hollands, who also is author of an advice book for female executives.

At the point they become known as “intimidators,” they often are fired, she said.

HP directors yesterday appointed Chief Financial Officer Robert P. Wayman as interim chief executive. They named director Patricia C. Dunn non-executive chairman.

Ms. Dunn, 51, a board member since 1998, said directors had been discussing Mrs. Fiorina’s removal for “quite some time,” based on consultations with lawyers, venture capitalists and academics.

This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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