Carly Fiorina has raced around the world at a
blistering pace, traveling more than 60% of the time and often working
weekends as she racked up sales for Lucent
Technologies Inc. During one especially hectic week, she flew in
the corporate jet to meet customers in Italy, Taiwan and Brazil.
Meanwhile, her husband, Frank Fiorina, was home, after taking early
retirement from AT&T Corp. in July 1998. Mr.
Fiorina, who is 49 and has two grown daughters from a previous marriage,
has taken on a great deal of the household duties that he had previously
shared with his wife. The couple have no children together.
People who know the Fiorinas say that long ago Frank saw his wife was
building a hugely successful career and worked hard to support it.
"I remember Frank saying years ago, 'Here's the reality: I have a wife
who is going to be the CEO of a major corporation someday,' " says Kathy
Fitzgerald, a Lucent senior vice president and a former AT&T
That day came, as Hewlett-Packard Co. named the
44-year-old Ms. Fiorina to be chief executive officer. That makes the
Silicon Valley computer giant, the nation's 14th-biggest industrial
company, the largest public corporation ever to be run by a woman. And all
over America, an intense conversation is under way about the personal
choices Ms. Fiorina has made and whether they contributed to her rise.
Andrea Redman, a Russell Reynolds Associates recruiter in Chicago,
talked to roughly a dozen businesswomen about H-P's breakthrough
appointment. She says several working mothers told her: "She can afford to
work seven days a week because of the [lifestyle] choices she has
"There is no question that people like Carly and Frank, who are
unencumbered, are freer to take these moves," says Lucent's Ms. Fitzgerald.
When she returned from an eight-month maternity leave in 1982, Ms.
Fitzgerald says, she discovered that she had been passed over for a
The emphasis on Ms. Fiorina's personal trade-offs infuriates other
executive women, however. "When a guy gets a CEO job, we never ask, 'What
kind of trade-offs is he making?' It drives me crazy," says Irene
Rosenfeld, a Kraft Foods executive vice president and president of Kraft
Canada in Toronto.
It's a debate Ms. Fiorina herself isn't eager to join. "I hope I've
reached the point where my gender is interesting, but not the main point of
the story," she told reporters after Hewlett-Packard's announcement. She declined to discuss her husband's role in her success,
saying the subject "was too personal and too female," according to an H-P
spokeswoman. Mr. Fiorina also declined to comment.
The Fiorinas married 15 years ago while both worked in AT&T's
government-sales office in Washington. After moving up in that office, Ms.
Fiorina accepted a fellowship to the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology's Sloan School.
She met Bill Marx, the head of AT&T's Network Systems, during a MIT
management class. Mr. Marx convinced her to make the rather unconventional
move of accepting a job with him.
"She moved from what was the core of AT&T to what was the
periphery," said Dan Stanzione, Lucent's chief operating officer and
president of Lucent's Bell Laboratories. There, Ms. Fiorina met other women
such as Pat Russo, now Lucent's vice president of strategy and corporate
operations, who flourished on the network side of AT&T's business in
part because it was considered the company's ugly duckling.
Mr. Stanzione was struck by her ability to remain calm under pressure.
"It's amazing how comfortable Carly seems in what others might perceive as
uncomfortable situations," said Mr. Stanzione. "She can become very
intense, but she is also at ease at the same time."
For example, Ms. Fiorina often found herself in the ticklish position of
trying to sell equipment to phone companies that other parts of AT&T
were attacking in the marketplace. She also faced challenges in countries
like Taiwan, where some officials initially refused to deal with a
The MIT fellowship and network job meant that Ms. Fiorina had to move
out of Washington, and eventually to an AT&T office in Morristown, N.J.
The couple began a commuting marriage that lasted four years, in part
because a hiring freeze delayed Mr. Fiorina's transfer to New Jersey.
At the time, both she and Frank Fiorina were among dozens of directors
at the company, an executive level just below officer. But it was becoming
clear that it was Ms. Fiorina who had the exceptionally bright future
Ms. Fiorina was integral to AT&T's spinoff of Lucent in 1996.
Initially even Lucent's bankers were unenthusiastic. But, along with
Richard McGinn, Lucent's chief executive, Ms. Fiorina pushed for a company
with the image of a technology highflier, rather than a boring, old-line
Ms. Fiorina, whose mother was a painter, pushed the company to adopt an
unconventional logo, the red painted circle that has become synonymous with
Lucent's name. After working to set up Lucent's corporate operations, she
became president of its consumer products division.
Mr. Fiorina left AT&T, taking advantage of a generous
buyout package offered by Chairman C. Michael Armstrong. Ms. Fiorina's
demanding travel schedule as head of Lucent's $20 billion-a-year global
service provider business in part prompted Mr. Fiorina to retire early, say
people close to them.
Several other senior-level businesswomen say their husbands',
stay-at-home status or less-demanding jobs have helped them succeed.
Consider Katherine M. Hudson. She was Eastman
Kodak Co.'s top-ranked female until she quit in late 1993 to
become president and chief executive of W.H. Brady Co., a Milwaukee maker
of coated film and industrial identification products since renamed Brady
Her husband, Bob, left Kodak, too. The 50-year-old upper middle manager
and ex-biology professor offered to stay home and raise their son Robert,
then aged six. Mr. Hudson grocery shops, washes and folds laundry and
supervises the cleaning lady. When someone inquires about his profession,
Ms. Hudson notes, he hands over a business card that reads, "CEO 10537" --
the number of the family's suburban Milwaukee home address.
Ms. Hudson says she suffers less guilt about her long hours and frequent
travel because "there's a parent home when Robert gets home from school."
The sex-role reversal "allows me to focus more of my discretionary time on
work," she says. Without this arrangement, she wonders, "Would our son be
as mentally healthy? Would our quality of life be as good? I don't think
Working couples with strong marriages increasingly treat their unions as
a flexible career partnership, says Ms. Hudson, who is 52. "We take turns,"
she explains. "When I retire some years down the road, he probably will go
back to teaching."
Even executive women without young children find their careers benefit
when their mates retreat from the fast track. John Emerson, a longtime
bankruptcy litigator, decided to write books full-time after Honeywell Inc.
promoted his wife, Frances, to vice president of communications.
She moved to Minneapolis in late 1996. He stayed in Scottsdale, Ariz.,
for another 10 months so their daughter could complete high school.
As the family's primary breadwinner, Ms. Emerson is now more ambitious
and assertive about seeking raises.
"I have blossomed more than I otherwise would have," the 49-year-old
executive says. And John "has been an extended consultant to the company,"
encouraging dinnertime brainstorming about her work problems and possible
When she takes business trips, he likes to hide a tiny note in her
suitcase expressing his affection. The couple expects to move to New Jersey
once Honeywell completes its merger with AlliedSignal Inc. and she becomes
a VP of the greatly enlarged business.
Many businesswomen believe it's sexist to focus on Ms. Fiorina's
"It's too bad that's what's in the spotlight here. I really wish people
could look at what she has done at Lucent," suggests Cynthia Danaher,
general manager of Hewlett-Packard's Medical Products Group in Andover,
'Swims Like a Fish'
Ms. Fiorina "has wonderful leadership skills. She swims like a fish in
the male and female environment," concurs Marilyn Laurie, a former AT&T
executive vice president who retired in May 1998 after a 26-year
"The pipeline is chockablock with women with gangbusters experience,"
Ms. Laurie goes on. "For each one, are we going to ask what role their
husband -- and their children or lack of children -- play?"
Still, the swelling ranks of female business leaders is sending a strong
message to their gender's next generation. Carol Bartz is chief executive
of Autodesk Inc., a software maker in San Rafael, Calif., while her
husband, Bill Marr, is retired.
Their 10-year-old daughter, whose last name is Marr, recently told her
mother that when she runs a company, she will change her name to Bartz.