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Out of Our Minds
Wednesday, February 09, 2005 9:43 AM
Board 1, Carly 0
Kevin Salwen on Business

Hewlett-Packard's board has decided that Carly Fiorina isn't the right person for the job after all. She resigned as CEO this morning, but it's quite clear that she was pushed. In the past few weeks, there had been reports that the board was dissatisfied with Fiorina's need to keep her hand firmly on much of the day-to-day operations.

Now, it will be interesting to see what we learn in the coming days. Some analysis obviously will center around business activities -- HP's competition in the PC and consulting businesses has been fierce as it has tried to diversify beyond its printer expertise. But I suspect we'll also hear much chatter in personal terms, with waves of code-speak for 'controlling woman.' Why do I feel like we've seen this movie before?


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Kevin - 2/12/2005 10:51:46 PM
I love what you have to say, Alison. When a woman is treated equally -- bad decision-making = shorter tenure -- that is indeed a good day. Now hopefully we can move toward the day when a woman CEO of a major corporation doesn't have to be a poster child of gender equality.

Interestingly, I think that has happened on the minority side of the playing field at AOL, where DIck Parsons is another CEO, not a minority CEO. Wonder what the difference is...
Alison - 2/12/2005 6:20:52 PM
I agree with Dave. A CEO gave a bad makeover to a distinguished Fortune 500 company. Slashing R&D and selling off test and measurement product division to buy PCs which stock analysts could understand better? Like giving the soft-spoken brunette librarian a platinum blonde punk do.

HP didn't perform, so their CEO, who happens to be a she, was held accountable (with a multimillion dollar windfall). A woman was treated just like a man in this case. A good day for women.
Eric McNulty - 2/10/2005 2:48:46 PM
I think that Carly's high profile and obvious talent (aside from her massive misjudgement about the Compaq deal) will keep this from being cast as a gender issue. She suffered the fate of many high-profile CEOs -- the board and shareholders demanded significant growth, she overreached trying to deliver it, and then was blamed for the shortfall. Not fair, but also not uncommon.

Somehow I think that her separation package will soften the blow and, as a talented executive, she will wind up landing on her feet.
Dave Taylor - 2/9/2005 10:37:22 AM
I certainly hope we don't see this turn into a gender-based discussion, personally, and it wasn't until I started reading this 'second wave' of news about the event that it even dawned on me that some could see it this way. From the beginning Fiorina has not demonstrated true visionary leadership at the helm of Hewlett-Packard. Her taking on the mantle of CEO at HP was tremendously divisive to the culture, Her acquisition of Compaq was misguided and has proven yet another example of how a merger of big companies ends up as a negative, not positive transaction.

Then, as we watched IBM figure out the inevitable results of the commoditization of the personal computer industry and cut an excellent deal with Lenova, HP took exactly the opposite tact and saddled the successful printer division with the unsuccessful PC division.

What was Fiorina thinking?

I talk about this at more length at http://www.intuitive.com/blog/ for people who want to see another perspective. But, really, let's try to avoid saying that it's because Fiorina was female, because that just trivializes a much more important, serious and legitimate transition event.


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