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Graham Carlow/IBM via Bloomberg

Women at the Top

Posted on April 12, 2012.

Throughout my career, so far, I continue to be inspired by the women in my life and in the working world. This week I read an article about newly appointed IBM CEO, Ginny Rometty, this has inspired me to research and write about the women who make it to top , what inspires them, motives them against the odds to get to the top of normally male dominated positions, why do women start the businesses they run and how do they balance what is important to them in there lives and what makes them tick. So each week I will learn and share lessons about how women are making it to, staying at and enjoying it at the top.

This article is part of a series by Miranda de Freston on “Women at the top” Subscribe to Footdown blog

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty

In 2011 the The IBM board of Directors elected Ginni Rometty as president and CEO of the company, to start in January 2012, making her the first ever woman to head up IBM, an awesome achievement.

IBM via Bloomberg

“Ginni got it because she deserved it… It’s got zero to do with progressive social policies. She is more than a superb operational executive. With every leadership role, she has strengthened our ability to integrate IBM’s capabilities for our clients. She has spurred us to keep pace with the needs and aspirations of our clients by deepening our expertise and industry knowledge. Ginni’s long-term strategic thinking and client focus are seen in our growth initiatives, from cloud computing and analytics to the commercialization of Watson. She brings to the role of CEO a unique combination of vision, client focus, unrelenting drive, and passion for IBMers and the company’s future. I know the board agrees with me that Ginni is the ideal CEO to lead IBM into its second century.”  S Palmisano IBM CEO 2003 -2011.

This move promoted her from IBM senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy, where she was accountable for revenue, profit, and client satisfaction in the 170 global markets in which IBM does business. She was responsible for IBM’s worldwide results, which exceeded $99 billion in 2010 and also for leading IBM’s global strategy, marketing and communications functions.

Ginni Rometty is on the Board of Trustees of her alma mater Northwestern University, as well as on the Board of Overseers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and on The Deming Cup’s committee at Columbia Business School, which recognises individuals for operational excellence.

Ginni Rometty Background

Born in 1958, Ginni Rometty grew up in a Chicago suburb and is the oldest of four children. She has a Bachelor of Science degree with high honors in computer science and electrical engineering from Northwestern University. After graduation in 1979, she started an internship with General Motors in Detroit, where she met her husband Mark and joined IBM in 1981 as a systems engineer. She splits her time living in White Plains, New York, and Bonita Springs, Florida, where she and her husband Mark are avid scuba divers.

Career Highlights

Ginni Rometty on Taking Risks

CEO with a conscience

As well as being on the Board of Overseers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Rometty is a leader in diversity initiatives including IBM’s Women in Technology Council and the Women’s Leadership Council, and is one of the senior sponsors of the Women’s Executive Council. She is a frequent speaker at industry and business conferences.

Speaking at Northwestern University commencement speech last year, she said:

“IBM’s long- standing mantra is ‘Think.’ What has always made IBM a fascinating and compelling place for me, is the passion of the company, and its people, to apply technology and scientific thinking to major societal issues. Every day I get to ‘Think’ and work on everything from digitizing electric grids so they can accommodate renewable energy and enable mass adoption of electric cars, helping major cities reduce congestion and pollution, to developing new micro- finance programs that help tiny businesses get started in markets such as Brazil, India, Africa.  After 30 years, I’m genuinely excited to get up and apply those problem- solving skills in ways I would never have imagined when I was sitting where you are.”

Rometty on her Success

In an interview Rometty credits her husband with a crucial insight that helped shape her corporate ambitions and says she has grown the most in her career through “experiential” learning.

“I learned the most in my life and career when I took a risk.”

“Her succession at IBM has been the result of careful, long- term planning by the company’s board. Rometty not only held many key positions at IBM during her career, she also has received mentoring and exposure to global leaders important to IBM’s future” said R Kanter a Harvard Business School professor.

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My Thoughts

This is no over-night promotion or success story. Ginni’s success comes from 30 years service at IBM, where she started as a System Engineer. She has worked hard in many areas of a large organisation, developed her skill set and made huge impacts on business revenues and strategy. Also from what I can see she has made personal sacrifices; having never had children and her husband provides a role that supports her in a very demanding job.

In the 2011 list of Fortune 500 companies, ranking of America’s largest corporations, 12 are run by women. That’s just 2%, so Ginny joins an small group of women at the top in the America.

Good luck to Ginny in heading up IBM and I look forward to reading more about her journey at the top.

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