IBM Names First Female CEO, Promises Business as Usual Sometimes there doesn’t have to be whispers, daggers and backstabbing for there to be change in a major company. Such is the case at IBM where the board of directors has elected the senior VP and group executive for sales and marketing, Virginia M. Rometty, as president and chief executive.

Rometty’s appointment will take effect as of January 1. Sam Palmisano, who is standing down, will remain chairman of the board.

Women in Charge

Commonly known as Ginni, she has also been elected to join IBM’s board of directors. When she assumes her post in January, the 54-year-old Rometty will be the ninth chief executive of the 100-year-old technology giant, and the first woman to take the position.

Widely known in business circles, she has appeared in on the list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business by Fortune Magazine, and was appointed to the role, according to Palmisano, because she successfully led several of IBM’s most important businesses in the past 10 years.

Samuel Palmisano and Virginia M. "Ginni" Rometty 

The appointment of Rometty for the top job at Big Blue makes her one of the most prominent women executives in corporate America, some of whom already hold prominent positions in the IT industry including Ursula Burns of Xerox and Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard.

Last month, Whitman was named CEO of Hewlett-Packard. She had previously joined eBay when it was a fledgling startup during the dotcom boom and built it into what it is now. She also ran unsuccessfully for California governor last year.

In particular, Rometty has led the development of the services businesses that is growing rapidly even though some critics say it is little more than part of an elaborate marketing strategy.

However, there has also been a shift in business focus in IBM with services as a key element of its business portfolio, with less emphasis on selling hardware and software, but rather bundles of technology that streamline businesses.

Ginni Rometty has successfully led several of IBM’s most important businesses over the past decade -- from the formation of IBM Global Business Services to the build-out of our Growth Markets Unit…But 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,” Palmisano said.

Palmisano Steps Down 

And the handover is likely to be relatively trouble-free as she has worked closely with Palmisano on the roadmap to 2015 that aims to increase the share of its revenue coming from growth markets such as China from 21% to 30%.

Palmisano, 60, became IBM chief executive officer in 2002 and chairman of the board in 2003. During his tenure, IBM exited commoditizing businesses, including PCs, printers and hard disk drives, and increased investments in high-value businesses and technologies.

He has overseen the expansion of IBM in the emerging markets of China, India, Brazil, Russia and dozens of other developing countries, transforming IBM from a multinational into a globally integrated enterprise. In 2008, he launched IBM’s Smarter Planet strategy, which describes the company’s view of the next era of information technology and its impact on business and society.