International Business Machines (IBM) announced its first female chairman in company history yesterday, as Virginia Rometty will take over Monday once incumbent chairman/chief executive officer Samuel J. Palmisano’s retirement takes effect.
Rometty, 55, will not be alone among high-ranking female executives in the American technology industry; other women serving as CEO or company chairman include Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo. Two other women hold top positions on IBM’s board of directors; these are 65-year-old Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, and 67-year-old Joan Spero, who once served as executive vice president of American Express. Recently, Carol Bartz held the CEO position at both Yahoo and Autodesk, before her controversial dismissal from the latter company last September.
Palmisano, 61, would remain as a senior adviser to IBM following his retirement. IBM chairmen typically retire at or around the age of 60, just as Palmisano would be doing on Monday. His predecessor, Louis Gerstner Jr., also did the same in 2002, shortly after his 60th birthday.
Rometty, who was named CEO in October of 2011, is the ninth person to serve in that capacity for IBM. She had announced last year that IBM will continue following its present roadmap and stay on the course chartered by Palmisano during his tenure as CEO. Upon taking over from Gerstner in 2002, Palmisano had transformed IBM from a manufacturer of computer hardware (desktop computers, hard drives, printers, etc.) into a company more focused on software, cloud computing and systems analysis. New chairman/CEO Rometty had previously filled leadership roles in different IBM departments, including sales, marketing and services. She was also instrumental in the integration of Pricewaterhouse Coopers Consulting, which is considered the most important and sizeable acquisition in the history of professional services.