Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fiorina's Formula for Change in Silicon Valley Female CEO Wants to Make Hewlett-Packard's Stodgy Image More Dynamic

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fiorina's Formula for Change in Silicon Valley Female CEO Wants to Make Hewlett-Packard's Stodgy Image More Dynamic

Article excerpt

A few weeks before she was named the new top executive of Silicon Valley's most venerable technology firm, Carleton Fiorina pricked the region's air of self-importance with a pointed criticism.

Speaking at a Stanford University conference while still an executive at New Jersey-based Lucent Technologies Inc., she chastised Silicon Valley for being a bit insular and narrow-minded.

"You could use a little more diversity of approach," she said.

Now that she's in town, settling in this week at Hewlett-Packard Company, Ms. Fiorina will get a chance to demonstrate just what she meant. Already clear though, is that "Carly" Fiorina is no fan of the status quo.

As a top executive at Lucent, Fiorina helped crack the so-called glass ceiling for women in corporate America. And now, as the top- ranking female in the nation's most dynamic industry, Fiorina is charting new territory for women in the workplace.

"This is good news," says Jennifer Allyn of Catalyst, a New York advocacy and research group that tracks women in corporate America. "It sends a powerful message to women and young girls that they can succeed as leaders."

Somewhat surprisingly, the industry does not have a strong record of women officers and board directors. A gender tilt in favor of males runs throughout the technology sector, from those who use computers at a young age, to male-oriented computer games and programs, to the corporate hierarchy of the top technology firms.

Few women at the top

That gender bias is particularly noticeable among Fortune 500 firms, where Fiorina's ascent has single-handedly boosted the number of women CEOs by 50 percent - from two to three.

Fiorina didn't make a lot of the gender issue when named head of HP, but her own rsum offers a rebuttal to the stereotypes of why women's ranks so often thin at the top of the corporate ladder.

Women are often perceived by their male coworkers as having less commitment to career and less willingness to relocate. As Fiorina navigates a cross-country move with the help of her stay-at-home husband, and cranks up for her famous early-riser conference calls, no one doubts her fervor for making her mark in the corporate arena.

Indeed, Fiorina's willingness to goad Silicon Valley-ites at the electronic commerce conference in late June seems typical of a take- no-prisoners style that is her trademark, according to those that have worked with her.

Lucent senior vice president Kathy Fitzgerald, who worked with Fiorina for nine years, calls Fiorina "thoughtfully provocative." While she likes to "stimulate different thoughts and approaches," she never does so needlessly.

Dan Plunkett, a managing director of Delta Consulting Group, worked closely with Fiorina in the 1996 spin-off of Lucent from AT&T and describes her as a smooth, tough, and effective leader. …

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