Sylvia Ann Hewlett, a columnist for Harvard Business Review, draws some surprising conclusions from the Mark Hurd scandal at Hewlett Packard.

Women's careers tend to stall out in upper-middle management and female executives need the support and sponsorship of C-suite men if they are to stand a chance of climbing the highest rungs of the corporate ladder. Sad to say, in the wake of the Hurd ouster, sponsorship is going to be in even shorter supply. However tangled the Hurd/Fisher narrative becomes, a large proportion of male leaders who read the story will have one and only one takeaway: "Poor guy was fired for dining alone with a junior woman. No one is even alleging a sexual relationship. How crazy is that! It makes me want to avoid ever being alone with a younger female colleague." So said one C-suite male I talked to.

All of which puts a crimp on sponsorship, a relationship which requires a senior executive to "use up chips" to help a high potential mid-level executive gain visibility, win plum assignments, and eventually get promoted.

Read the full story at HBR.