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IBM breaks new ground by selecting its first female chief

technology

Published 27/10/2011 | 05:00

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Getty Images

IBM global sales chief Virginia Rometty will take over as CEO from Sam Palmisano in January, becoming one of the most powerful women in business and technology today.

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In taking the helm of the storied industry icon, she makes it the largest US corporation, by value, to be headed by a woman.

IBM, which had a reputation of being a strait-laced, male-dominated business empire, will formally appoint the 54-year-old engineering and computer science graduate as its first female CEO on January 1.

The selection went down well with Silicon Valley and Wall Street, especially because Mr Palmisano (60) is staying on as chairman.

"Given Ginni's experience running the largest portion of the business by revenue, she was a logical choice," said Macquarie Securities analyst Brad Zelnick.

Her ascension will set up a rivalry with Hewlett-Packard chief Meg Whitman for the mantle of most powerful woman in technology, mirroring a long-running rivalry between the two companies.

Ms Rometty -- who most recently served as senior vice president of global sales -- made her mark with the smooth 2002 integration of PriceWaterhouseCooper's consulting arm, a landmark move that catapulted IBM into the upper echelons of the technology consulting business.

"She exudes energy," said Nelson Fraiman, professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business.

Prof Fraiman, who has known the computer science and electrical engineering graduate from Northwestern for about a decade, said she was a good strategist and an early advocate for IBM's expansion into business analytics, or tools and services that help companies quickly analyse trends.

"She thinks in a very analytical way. That's part of her engineering training," he said.

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