IBM CEO to Become 17th Woman to Head Fortune 500 Company

The number of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies increased this week when IBM (No. 7 in The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity) announced that Virginia M. Rometty, currently senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy, would succeed retiring CEO Samuel J. Palmisano. When Rometty officially assumes the position on Jan. 1, she will become the 17th woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company and the first woman leader in IBM’s 100-year history.


Other Fortune 500 female CEOs include: Irene B. Rosenfeld, Kraft Foods (No. 9 in The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity); Angela F. Braly, WellPoint (No. 36); Beth Mooney, KeyCorp (one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies); Ursula M. Burns, Xerox; Lynn L. Elsenhans, Sunoco; Andrea Jung, Avon; Ellen J. Kullman, DuPont; Gracia C. Martore, Gannett; Denise M. Morrison, Campbell Soup; Deanna M. Mulligan, Guardian; Carol M. Meyrowitz, TJX; Indra K. Nooyi, PepsiCo; Debra L. Reed, Sempra Energy; Laura J. Sen, BJ’s Wholesale Club; Meg Whitman, HP; and Patricia A. Woertz, Archer Daniels Midland. (Health Care Service Corporation, No. 26 on the DiversityInc Top 50 list, is not a Fortune 500 company but also has a woman CEO, Pat Hemingway Hall.) Heather Bresch will assume the role of CEO at Mylan, effective Jan. 1, bringing the number of women CEOs to 18.

Fortune 500 CEOs remain primarily white and male. Rometty’s addition to this listing results in only an incremental shift (a 1.0 percent gain to total 3.4 percent; 3.6 percent if including Bresch) in the percentage of female Fortune 500 CEOs. There are four Black (0.8 percent), nine Asian (1.8 percent) and five Latino (1 percent) CEOs. They include: Kenneth Chenault, strong>AMERICAN EXPRESS (No. 13); Kenneth C. Frazier, Merck & Co. (No.15); and Ajay Banga, MasterCard (No. 31).

Rometty is now one of two women who head a company in the traditionally male-dominated technology market. Former eBay President and CEO Meg Whitman was named in September as president and CEO of HP.

“There is no greater privilege in business than to be asked to lead IBM, especially at this moment,” says Rometty. “Today, IBM’s strategies and business model are correct. Our ability to execute and deliver consistent results for clients and shareholders is strong.”

Rometty holds a bachelor’s degree with high honors in computer science and electrical engineering from Northwestern University. She joined IBM in 1981 as a systems engineer. She has held multiple leadership positions at the company, including general manager of IBM Global Services, Americas, and IBM’s Global Insurance and Financial Services Sector, as well as senior vice president of IBM Global Business Services.

Related Articles on DiversityInc Best Practices:

Where’s the Diversity in Fortune 500 CEOs

Q&A With KeyCorp’s CEO Beth Mooney

Research: Women in Top Executive Roles

Women Executive Pay & Retention

The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for Executive Women

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