And as I mentioned in that piece, two years ago, Fortune featured Brinkley and five other execs in "One Step Away," about rising-star Most Powerful Women on track to be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies someday. So what's happened to the other five?
One woman made it to the top: Ellen Kullman became CEO of DuPont in January.
And the other two women in "One Step Away"? They're off the career ladder, like Brinkley. Morgan Stanley (MS) co-president Zoe Cruz has been on the sidelines since John Mack booted her in late 2007. As at BofA, her dismissal was a case of a CEO taking out a top deputy over serious risk-management problems.
Meanwhile, Susan Arnold's opt out was voluntary. When the Procter & Gamble (PG) President quit her post last March, one day after her 55th birthday, she did it to take back her life. As for returning to a big corporate job, who knows? She's not deciding yet, she told me. Meanwhile, she's staying in the game by serving on the boards of Walt Disney and McDonald's.
Here's the reality: In this stressful environment, more and more top business women are questioning the worth of their careers. Last month came a retirement announcement from one of Wal-Mart's (WMT) most senior women, Linda Dillman, at the top of her game. Dillman, EVP of Benefits and Risk Management at Wal-Mart, never lusted for big titles. I bet she'll return to her roots: information technology.
Another veteran of Fortune's Power 50 list, Sue Hellmann, recently quit her job as president of product develepment at Genentech to become Chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco.
More and more women are making big life choices. Because real power is being able to choose. That's a point that Claire Shipman and Katty Kay write about extensively in their new book, Womenomics.
By the way, I hear that Amy Brinkley is doing okay. She certainly isn't proud of failing to keep BofA well-capitalized and sturdy. But she's part of a sweeping reorg there, and more change will come as CEO Ken Lewis fights to keep control. It may be small comfort, but there's less shame in losing your job now than there has been in our lifetimes.
Two more Most Powerful Women -- the latest, both named Linda -- are leaving big companies.
One is Royal Dutch Shell's (RDS.A) Linda Cook -- whose exit lends fresh meaning to the term "leaky pipeline." Cook, executive director at the Anglo-Dutch oil giant and No. 3 on Fortune's 2008 international Most Powerful Women list, will leave next Monday after losing the CEO race there, according to the Wall Street Journal. Strangely, MOREPatricia Sellers - May 27, 2009 3:52 PM ET
On Friday, I left you with a promise: that I'd find something new and proactive to do to answer President Obama's call to "responsibility"--which seems to be the buzzword of his Administration.
I found my "to do" this weekend--but before I tell you what I decided on, let me share briefly what I spent yesterday working on. Carrie Welch, my onetime Fortune colleague and former Most Powerful Women Summit co-chair, and MOREPatricia Sellers - Mar 2, 2009 2:10 PM ET
Men think about power vertically -- and focus on rank and status and size. Women think about power horizontally -- it's largely about influence. I know I'm in trouble already. This is a stereotype, indeed. But in more than a decade of asking women leaders -- and the men they work with -- how they define power, I've discovered this to be an remarkably consistent truth. My favorite definition of MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 10, 2008 10:51 AM ET
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