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IBM's first female CEO will be Virginia Rometty

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IBM Palmisano and Rometty
IBM Palmisano and Rometty

IBM announced on Tuesday that Virginia Rometty would become its CEO on January 1st, 2012, making her the first female CEO of the company and setting a record of 18 current female Fortune 500 CEOs (it would have been 19 if Carol Bartz wasn't ousted from Yahoo earlier this year). Although Rometty has been seen as a favorite to succeed Samuel Palmisano, the move was unexpected because Palmisano claimed he had no intentions of following IBM tradition and stepping down at age 60. He lied.

Rometty will join HP's Meg Whitman in running the world's two biggest tech companies, but their positions are currently polar opposites. HP is suffering from a failed restructuring under Leo Apotheker, and IBM has had steady success (culminating earlier this year with Watson's Jeopardy victory). Mr. Palmisano, who will remain chairman of the board, says Rometty has "successfully led several of IBM’s most important businesses," including the formation of IBM Global Business Services and the $3.5 billion acquisition of PricewaterhouseCoopers. Rometty started at IBM in 1981 as a systems engineer and has risen to senior vice president and group executive for sales. Speaking on her newfound position, Rometty says "there is no greater privilege in business than to be asked to lead IBM, especially at this moment."