How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

HP's trifecta of female directors

January 21, 2011: 4:28 PM ET

Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) announcement that it is adding three women to its board of directors is a milestone -- apparently the first instance of a company naming three women in one day.

The female trifecta includes former eBay (EBAY) CEO Meg Whitman, former Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) CEO Pat Russo and current chief of AXA Private Equity Dominique Senequier -- all of whom have been on Fortune's annual list of Most Powerful Women in Business.

Stunning, yes, and absolutely logical given the heat that HP's board took last year for the way it handled sexual harassment charges against then-CEO Mark Hurd. The board ousted Hurd. And it so happens that a female director involved in the investigation of Hurd, veteran media exec Lucy Salhany, is now resigning to make room for the other women.

Also, remember, this is the same board (albeit with a different cast) that executed the most famous firing of a female CEO, in 2005: that of Carly Fiorina. She was Fortune's original No. 1 Most Powerful Woman when we started the list in 1998.

Today's HP directors -- including HP CEO Leo Apotheker who came from SAP (SAP) and Silicon Valley uber-investor Marc Andreessen -- clearly aims to stock up on proven strategists who can help raise HP's game against ascendant IBM (IBM) and Oracle (ORCL), where Hurd now resides. But no doubt, the directors are aiming for a major image makeover as well.

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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