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WHEN CARLY FIORINA WAS APpointed CEO of Hewlett-Packard, she commented that the glass ceiling for women was at long last shattered. And while we might not necessarily be completely there yet, we do see, over the next five years a modest, if not dramatic, gain for women holding the CEO title.

Even as increased equality in the workplace has allowed for more accomplished female executives to reach the top than in recent years, the challenges of running a major global corporation have led some leading CEO candidates, including Brenda Barnes, formerly of Pepsi-Cola, and Cynthia P. Danaher, formerly of Hewlett-Packard's Medical Systems Group, to step off the fast track. Carly Fiorina, on the other hand, had no qualms about her rise to CEO at H-P, and she might indeed be the vanguard of how CEOs and their spouses, both male and female, will need to balance lifestyles to work successfully. In Fiorina's case, her husband retired to let her focus on her job.

The idea that anyone can "have it all"-- children, family, and the top job--is a tall order in today's competitive environment. Increasingly, we see men and women forced into career choices. Men are stepping off the career track more frequently and without the onus that it used to carry. But, it is challenging for men and women to make this choice, especially when children are involved. Society has not evolved quite so much that it accepts "Mr. Mom" as easily as "Mom."

HOWEVER, IT IS CLEAR that the CEO of the large corporation must be married to work more than ever while the mate carries the burden of support and family maintenance. This has always been the case, but the intensity has risen ramatically. It is not unusual now for a CEO to be away from home for days at a time and miss the activities of a typical family. or women CEOs, the desire to maintain contact with children and do their jobs while keeping grueling schedules is increasingly difficult. Something has to give.

The question of senior women qualified to rise to the top job is no longer a pipeline issue. Look back 20 years when women were firmly established in postgraduate business schools. But in the 20 years since, thousands have disappeared from the ranks of major global corporations. In our experience, most of these women voluntarily chose to get off the big-business career track. They were in difficult jobs with few resources to fall back on--and concluded that the path to the top was not worth the sacrifices.

Other women, have stayed in business, making unusual changes in order to accommodate all the demands. Candice Carpenter, CEO of iVillage and a single mother of two, stays at home as much as possible when not at work. "I have my hair done at my house, my workout done at my house. If people want to have dinner with me, they eat at my house," Carpenter told CE in a recent interview. "That way, I'm home and with my kids. They don't always have my full attention but I'm there and that means a lot to them."

It is not unusual for CEOs of Internet companies like iVillage to work seven-day weeks, 18 hours a day in a frantic effort to build and launch their firms publicly before competition crushes them. This leaves little time for anything else, which is one reason the Internet has been largely a young-person's game, whether male or female. The people willing to take this kind of all-or-nothing risk do not have families yet, and in some cases, do not expect to have families for years into the future. Some have opted for careers in lieu of family. Still others--and that includes men--have simply had to improvise. Walter Buckley, for example, the CEO of B2B e-commerce company Internet Capital Group, goes home every night of the week (when not traveling) to spend two hours with his two young children, and then goes back to the office until 11 or 12 at night. "Ten years from now, I don't want to realize I had two children I never knew," he says, and adds that he considers his work at the office and at home a team effo rt. "My wife deserves a heck of a lot of credit for what we've achieved."

Another CEO, Bill Hambrecht of San Francisco-based W.R Hambrecht & Co., who spent more than 30 years in financial services, credits his wife with being the core of the family and for helping to fill the gaps when he wasn't there. "But I'll be the first to admit that when you've lived the kind of life I've lived--did you really spend as much time with your kids as you should have? No."

The issue of balance between work and personal life has increasingly become a factor for women and men as they decide whether to stay on track to the corner office. And those who have rejected complete commitment to work may be on to a healthier course in the end. With the harsh demands of Internet time that provide little space for thinking or relaxation, it has yet to be proven that one gets wealthier or healthier. In fact, there is an indication of just the opposite. There is less room for error. Today's star is tomorrow's has-been.
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Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2000

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