Like Father, like Daughter

By Goldsmith, Margie | Chief Executive (U.S.), October 2001 | Go to article overview

Like Father, like Daughter


Goldsmith, Margie, Chief Executive (U.S.)


These CEOs push their children hard, surround them with big ideas, but often try to keep them out of the family business-with little success.

Sanford I. Weill, chairman and CEO of Citigroup, never thought his daughter, Jessica, now Jessica Bibliowitz, would go into business. "He didn't put a lot of pressure on me," says Jessica. "I had an older brother and I was the girl. It was different then, 30 years ago. I guess his expectations were that I'd go out and be self-sufficient one way or the other and that I wouldn't stay on his payroll." Jessica, now 40 with a husband and two children, ages 8 and 10, is president and CEO of National Financial Partners, a New York Citybased independent financial services distribution system. She signed on as CEO when the company was formed with $125 million from Apollo Management LP, a leveraged buyout firm. "She liked working and she always talked about wanting to have a career," Weill says. "I didn't know she'd end up in the financial services business, but I feel good that she did. Obviously we must have had some good conversations around the dinner table."

Do CEO fathers help or hurt their daughters' chances for success? Chief Executive magazine asked many prominent CEOs and their successful daughters this question and found that fathers did little to encourage their daughters to follow in their footsteps. Instead, they automatically made sons the heirs apparent. Most CEO dads expected their daughters to marry and raise children, and to have little to do with the business.

Despite this underwhelming support, CEO daughters are reaching the top. They are balancing work and family, managing the spotlight from media, and choosing to ignore the thoughts and taunts of colleagues who believe they receive special privileges because they are the bosses' daughters.

To reach the present has not been easy. Some comments offered for this article were so sensitive that the individuals preferred to remain anonymous or spoke only if there would be no attribution. One daughter interviewed says her chief executive father never really gave her any advice (except to marry), and even though she is successful today she laments, "If my brother did what I do, my parents would say, `Oh my God, where did we go wrong?'"

Another says her father never expected her to have a career, but when she entered the workplace he gave her constant unwanted advice. "He doesn't know how not to," she says. Another boss's daughter is still resentful because when she chose to work for him he gave her only administrative and hospitality jobs. In addition, she complains that he doesn't at all understand what it means to be a mother and work for him. Still another begrudges the fact that her father treats her more harshly than any other person in a similar position at the company. Even when daughters talk about their fathers for attribution, they are very careful about the words they choose.

One thing they all agree on is that even though their mothers were the nurturers, their fathers' "tough love" paid off. Here are five corporate daughters who followed their fathers to the C-suite and could be considered pioneers in helping to change "like father, like son" to "like father, like daughter."

Independent Streak

Weill's daughter Jessica learned about business when her father brought associates and their innovative ideas into the home. Jessica recalls that as a child, she constantly heard her father talk about work. "I think the advantage was the terminology. I could understand it because I grew up around it. There were always people at our house having meetings and I'd wander in and that became my normal life. I loved it. They seemed to be having fun, and that left the biggest impression on me." Jessica says many women feel financial services is not a good place for them, but there were no big barriers for her. "Growing up around it really made me like it," she says. …

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