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CEO Sisters

Whilst scanning through The Economist: “The World in 2012” it took me till page 66 to find anything remotely related to or mentioning women in business until I found this –  “Women Will Get A Lift to the Top” – interesting reading and makes me wonder how different the content of the Economist will be in its edition “The World in 2020”.
Despite there being very few women in the Board Room, one lady who is certainly at the top of her game right now, is Denise Morrison, CEO of  Campbells.
The following comment made about her in The Economist article Bosses to Watch in 2012:
“the new boss of Campbell’s, Denise Morrison, will not persuade Chinese and Indian consumers to abandon home-made soup for canned stuff”
…made me want to know more about a woman who had made it to the top of a huge global brand.

First Women CEO of Campbell's - Denise Morrison

Denise Morrison Campbells CEO

In 2011 Denise Morrison Campbells became the first woman CEO of Campbells Soup and as well as this amazing achievement Denise has been recognised with many prestigious awards, including:

  • “Woman of Distinction” American Heart Association of New Jersey, 2010.
  • One of the 50 Most Influential Irish Women, Irish Voice 2010.
  • “Top Woman in Grocery,” Progressive Grocer magazine, 2008, 2009, and 2010.
  • One of the Top 50 Women to Watch, Wall Street Journal, 2007.
  • Garden State “Woman of the Year” for Corporations, Garden State Women magazine, 2007.
  • “Executive of the Year,” Snack Food & Bakery magazine, 2003.

Denise studied at Boston College for a degree in economics and psychology, graduating with magna cum laude, a rarely used distinction. She went on to start her career in the sales department at Procter & Gamble and then later joined Pepsi-Cola in Trade and Business Development. She then spent most of the 1980s at Nestle USA, where she held senior marketing and sales positions. In 1995, Denise moved to Nabisco Inc. She served as Senior Vice President and led the Nabisco Food Company’s sales organisation and was General Manager for the Down the Street division. She then went on to become Executive Vice President and General Manager of Kraft Foods’ Snacks and Confections divisions.
Denise joined Campbell in April 2003 as President-Global Sales and Chief Customer Officer in 2007 she was named Senior Vice President and President-North America Soup, Sauces and Beverages. Then in 2010 she was appointed Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer leading all of Campbell’s global businesses, corporate strategy, global advertising & design and research & development – impressive stuff!
I believe Denise has achieved her position of CEO at Campbells impart through dedication to one market sector, the grocery market. Denise has always worked inside this market sector, seeing her skills, knowledge and experience recognised through regular promotion within each organisation in which she has worked. Such dedication to one market has given Denise invaluable experience and helped propelled her to the top of her market sector.

The CEO Sisters

Researching Denise Morrison I found out very quickly, that not only is she one of the only women at the top in America but her sister, Mary Agnes Wilderotter,  is also CEO for Frontier Communications (#558) – now this was getting interesting.

Denise Morrison and Mary Wilderotter

Women at the Top in the USA

Women currently hold 3.4 % of Fortune 500 CEO roles and 3.6 % of Fortune 1000 roles – list published by Catalyst, this includes the CEO Sisters Denise Morrison and Mary Wilderotter:
Fortune 1500 (17 CEOs)

  • Meg Whitman, HP (#11)
  • Virginia Rometty, IBM (#18)
  • Patricia A. Woertz, Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) (#39)
  • Angela F. Braly, WellPoint, Inc. (#42)
  • Indra K. Nooyi, PepsiCo, Inc. (#43)
  • Irene B. Rosenfeld, Kraft Foods Inc. (#49)
  • Ellen J. Kullman, DuPont (#84)
  • Carol M. Meyrowitz, The TJX Companies, Inc. (#119)
  • Ursula M. Burns, Xerox Corporation (#121)
  • Laura Sen, BJ’s Wholesale Club (#221)
  • Sheri S. McCoy, Avon Products Inc. (#226)
  • Deanna M. Mulligan, Guardian (#245)
  • Debra L. Reed, Sempra Energy (#274)
  • Denise M. Morrison, Campbell Soup (#312)
  • Gracia C. Martore, Gannett (#415)
  • Beth E. Mooney, KeyCorp (#417)
  • Heather Bresch, Mylan (#418)
  • Fortune 501-1000 (19 CE

Fortune 501-1000 (19 CEOs)

  • Ilene Gordon, Corn Products International (#502)
  • Mary Agnes (Maggie) Wilderotter, Frontier Communications (#558)
  • Karen W. Katz, The Neiman Marcus Group Inc. (#567)
  • Laura J. Alber, Williams-Sonoma (#594)
  • Kimberly Harris, Puget Sound Energy (#644)
  • Mindy F. Grossman, HSN (#670)
  • Amy Miles, Regal Entertainment (#691)
  • Constance H. Lau, Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. (#717)
  • Diane M. Sullivan, Brown Shoe Company (#747)
  • Tamara L. Lundgren, Schnitzer Steel Industries (#793)
  • Cindy B. Taylor, Oil States International Inc. (#797)
  • Linda A. Lang, Jack in the Box Inc. (#799)Helen McCluskey, Warnaco Inc. (#800)
  • Patti S. Hart, International Game Technology (#878)
  • Kay Krill, ANN Inc. (#883)
  • Sara Mathew, Dun & Bradstreet Inc. (#980)
  • Jane Elfers, The Children’s Place Retail Stores (#982)
  • Patricia Vincent-Collawn, PNM Resources (#983)
  • Judy R. McReynolds, Arkansas Best Corp. (#989)

In comparison, as of the 29th June 2011, there are 14 female CEO’s running FTSE 350 companies, of which 4 are FTSE 100 and 10 FTSE 250:

  • Angela Jean Ahrendts-Couch, Burberry Group PLC
  • Cynthia Blum Carroll, Anglo American PLC
  • Alison J Cooper Imperial, Tobacco Group PLC
  • Dame Marjorie Morris Scardino, Pearson PLC
  • Lynn Rosanne Fordham, SVG Capital PLC
  • Katherine Lucy Garrett-Cox, Alliance Trust PLC
  • Doctor Harriet Green, Premier Farnell PLC
  • The Hon. Diana (Dido) Mary Harding, Talktalk Telecom Group PLC
  • Doctor Louise Makin, BTG PLC
  • Carolyn Julia McCall, EasyJet PLC
  • Ruby McGregor-Smith, Mitie Group PLC
  • Heidi Mottram, Northumbrian Water Group PLC
  • Kathryn (Kate) Elizabeth Swann, WH Smith PLC
  • Dorothy Carrington Thompson, Drax Group PLC

Making it to the top against the odds

Against the odds these CEO Sisters have made it to the top in both the companies they work for – brains and ambition must run in the family.
In an interview together they talked about what lessons their parents taught them:

I would love to have been a fly on the wall as they were growing up, as from what I read their parents did a fantastic job in giving them the foundation they needed to become the CEO’s they are today.
The CEO Sisters are often interviewed together and asked about how their relationship has helped them in their career, they talk about the ability to get a different perspective on problems they may have, share contacts and network together.
Both women talk passionately about supporting women in the boardroom and the lessons they learnt from their parents which enabled them to be self confident and have the belief that anything was possible coupled with a focus that getting a good education would give them the freedom and flexibility to do anything they wanted.
One of the lessons they talked about was the “job jar” in which they could earn money from various chores. They could trade chores as long as the chores were done and even work together if they thought that was the best way to get the job done – the emphasis was that the family was a team working together. This struck a chord with me as I think it’s so important to learn the value of money early on. The way in which the CEO Sisters were taught was very clever, giving them more than just an understanding of the value of money, it also developed team working and negotiation skills from an early age, even if they weren’t aware at the time.
For two women from one family to be at the top of their chosen careers – is a rare thing, and the only example I can think of where I have seen this before is with the tennis playing Williams Sisters. I really believe that the lessons that the CEO Sisters learnt from a young age gave them the drive to learn and work hard. Their parents must be proud!
So what makes anyone stand out from the crowd and make it to the top like the CEO Sisters have – genetics, parenting, talent or luck? No one can take away from the CEO Sisters the hard work, dedication and sacrifices they must have made to get where they have today. I think coupled with a natural capability, their upbringing and the opportunities that life has then brought them has led them to where they are today.


Fulfilling Needs

This week got me thinking.

  • Why are less women at the top of companies?
  • Is there a glass ceiling or in fact… do women not want what is currently being offered at the top of corporate businesses?
  • What barriers are there to entry?
  • Are there more differences in small or larger companies?
  • Are women more or less entrepreneurial when it comes to setting up in business?
  • What drives women to succeed and what do they consider success?

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs

In a recent discussion Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” was the top of discussion

Abraham Harold Maslow (April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was an American professor of psychology at Brandeis University. He is credited with founding humanistic psychology and famous for his hierarchy of needs.  Maslow put forth the idea that human beings need to fulfil basic needs before moving on to those more complex.

If Maslow’s hierarchy were to be reconsidered in today’s world, would the model be different for men and women? And if there are differences in needs does this then affect what aspirations and requirements a person has for happiness?
From the moment we are born our genes shape us, the songs our mum does or doesn’t sing to us when we are little, the stories our dad reads to us, the decisions on what school to send us to, and even what trainers we wear, the friends we make, the grades and aspirations we have, what we are inspired or not inspired by at a young age, the media, our desire to succeed, our exam results, the education path we choose, our first job, our first rejection, what we like and what drives us, the relationships we have, the people that manage us… our life shapes our needs and desires.
I have never felt I could not achieve anything because of my gender – age yes, size of my brain YES but gender no. I started work early after A Levels (I just wanted to work)  and studied at Open University later on in life. The biggest challenge was perception of age vs experience and gender in terms my pay packet. It wasn’t questioned that I could not do the jobs but the pay was not representative to equivalent jobs for male candidates and I have experienced this in both small and larger companies.

My life has shaped my needs.

I was brought up with food in abundance, I was loved and my mother sacrificed her career to look after myself and three siblings. My parents separated when I was 13. I was inspired by grandpa who set up and ran a successful fastening business – as well as manufacturing, he was one of the first people in the UK to import parts from the Far East.
As soon as I could get a job I did; I recommend a paper round to any teenager who needs to learn the value of money and hard work. Above anything else my desire was to be independent, in time it was a desire to be successful, I loved seeing the differences I could make and loved problem solving. The money was a drive as time progressed as I wanted recognition for the work that I had done.
My partners drive is in comparison different; he has more of a financial drive, driven by the need for security. He started life with financial struggles, coupled with his dad’s strict focus on education – this was the key to success and gave you choices. He traveled extensively, went to University to study Engineering and then qualified as a Chartered Accountant.

What needs do women at the top have that drives them forward to succeed?

Anita Roddick had an initial need to support her family and a desire to do things differently (ethically) which is what drove her business and made her stand out from the crowd
Ginni Rometty worked her way up to the top of IBM learning the business from the ground up. She is highly educated, well supported by her husband and has no children. I think what drives her is her need to learn and to push the boundaries on herself so she can keep growing and developing. Also to problem solve – something I am sure she is challenged and motivated by on a daily basis. In an interview (shown here) she talked about developing her confidence to push herself beyond what she felt were her capabilities being what has led to her success.

“Don’t believe in the inevitable”
Ginny Rometty

If the lower level needs are being met; you are safe, fed, watered, loved (not that basic) and educated then we as individuals can strive to achieve the higher needs and in turn help others.

So what are your needs?

Further reading on Maslow Hierarchy of Needs:


Businesswoman, Activist and Environmentalist

I can remember getting the train into Exeter when I was a teenager for a trip to the Body Shop, it was the in vogue shop at the time, with against animal testing products, refillable containers and what felt like a ethical purchase, it also smelt amazing – I, like lots of my friends loved it.
Years later when researching for setting up my own company I read Business as Unusual by Anita Roddick, the Body Shop founder, and I was inspired. The book was unlike any other Business Book I had read and took me through Roddick’s adventures of daring to be different and sticking to her principles whatever the cost. These principles are what I believe ultimately led to her success.

Dame Anita Roddick, DBE
(23 October 1942 – 10 September 2007)

A pioneer of the natural beauty industry, Roddick amassed a personal fortune of £51 million through her cosmetics and toiletries business, making her one of England’s richest women. She began The Body Shop with the vision that all types of businesses could be run ethically and that every ingredient had a story. The company was one of the first to prohibit the use of ingredients tested on animals and one of the first to promote fair trade with third world countries.

Anita Roddick

A taste of the awards Anita Roddick has received:

  • 1984 – Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year
  • 1991 – Center for World Development Education’s World Vision Award, USA
  • 1994 – Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics, USA
  • 1994 – University of Michigan’s Annual Business Leadership Award, USA
  • 1996 – Women’s Center’s Leadership Award, USA
  • 1999 – British Environment & Media Award
  • 2003 – DBE (Dame Commander of the British Empire)

Anita Roddick’s Background

Born in Littlehampton in 1942 Anita Roddick was the child of an Italian immigrant couple who instilled in her an intense work ethic. She trained as a teacher but then took an educational opportunity on a kibbutz in Israel which eventually turned into an extended working trip around the world. Soon after she got back to England her mother introduced her to her future husband, Gordon Roddick, together they opened a restaurant and then a hotel in Littlehampton. They married in 1970 with a young child and another one on the way.

The Body Shop

Anita Roddick started the The Body Shop in 1976, to create a livelihood for her family whilst her husband was travelling. At the time she described herself as having no training or experience but a desire to do things differently.
“Running that first shop taught me business is not financial science, it’s about trading: buying and selling. It’s about creating a product or service so good that people will pay for it.
It wasn’t only economic necessity that inspired the birth of The Body Shop. My early travels had given me a wealth of experience. I had spent time in farming and fishing communities with pre-industrial peoples, and been exposed to body rituals of women from all over the world. Also the frugality that my mother exercised during the war years made me question retail conventions. Why waste a container when you can refill it? And why buy more of something than you can use? We behaved as she did in the Second World War, we reused everything, we refilled everything and we recycled all we could. The foundation of The Body Shop’s environmental activism was born out of ideas like these.
Businesses have the power to do good. That’s why The Body Shop’s Mission Statement opens with the overriding commitment, ‘To dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change.’ We use our stores and our products to help communicate human rights and environmental issues.” Anita Roddick
She opened her first shop in Brighton with just 15 productsWhen her husband returned from 10-month travels, she had opened a second store and customers were asking if they could start their own Body Shop branches. In 1993 she told Third Way Magazine:
“The original Body Shop was a series of brilliant accidents. It had a great smell, it had a funky name. It was positioned between two funeral parlours–that always caused controversy. It was incredibly sensuous. It was 1976, the year of the heat wave, so there was a lot of flesh around. We knew about storytelling then, so all the products had stories. We recycled everything, not because we were environmentally friendly, but because we didn’t have enough bottles. It was a good idea. What was unique about it, with no intent at all, no marketing nous, was that it translated across cultures, across geographical barriers and social structures. It wasn’t a sophisticated plan, it just happened like that.”
and in an interview with she said:
I shouldn’t have survived, there were only 20 products in a tiny shop, but it had amazing creativity, all because we had no money.
If I had a shed load of money, I’d have done everything wrong – marketing, focus groups, although they are more important now. A lot of entrepreneurs don’t run their business, they just find a great brand – many of them couldn’t manage their way out of a paper bag! If their idea isn’t being developed by someone then they just sit on it and it never gets used… read more of the interview.

The leap from small to big business

The Body Shop arrived just as Europe was going ‘green’, I remember my decision to buy from the Body Shop was the promise of products not tested on animals and I loved the idea of refilling a container that would other wise have been thrown away, to this day the messages that The Body Shop promoted on Animal Welfare stick with me – that’s some powerful messages.
With the demand for growth Gordon Roddick came up with the idea for ‘self-financing’ so they could open more stores, which sparked the growth of The Body Shop franchise across the world. By 1978 a kiosk in Brussels became the first overseas franchise and by 1982 new shops opened at the rate of two per month.
The company went public in 1984 and at its height The Body Shop was worth £700 million.
By 1990, just one year after launching in the USA, there were 2,500 applications for a franchise. The company was now trading in 39 countries just fourteen years after opening it’s very first shop.
My background is in Systems and Change Management and I have worked for a number of growing businesses where my  job was to implement the systems, processes and team that would take the company forward. For me what was always critical was that the processes, systems and the people would work hand in hand and any changes I made needed to be thought about holistically. I have been known to “wing it” on many occasions but change needs time and full understanding. There is a great book, Change Management: Just Doing it, where the author talks about how he turned the fortunes of Sellotape UK around. I remember the example “sticking” with me of where he made changes that caused big unintended consequences because at the time he didn’t understand the process fully – worth reading.
Roddick talks about their period of huge growth, as unplanned (in which I think she meant the growth wasn,t a coordinated strategy not that the didn’t want to grow), with no systems, no marketing departments, no procedures and no organisation chart’s. I think there is something to be said for flexibility and a bit of winging it but as you grow you need to couple this with systems that support not suffocate a companies culture – a challenge but one worth taking on.
From opening one store in 1976 to floating a company in 1987 would be a feet for anyone, but for someone who was obviously creative and a free spirit this must have been a real challenge. Here Roddick talks openly about her experiences of working with Management Consultants, where she describes herself  as “losing the plot”:

Anita stepped down as chief executive in 1998 and from then on acted as a consultant.

The Body Shop – L’Oreal takeover

In March 2006 Body Shop agreed to be taken over by French cosmetics giant L’Oreal in a deal worth £652m. Its fortunes had been hit by rivals making similar products, but the Body Shop fought back and still had more than 2,000 stores in 53 countries.
At the time I can remember the sale caused controversy, because of L’Oréal’s involvement in animal testing and being part-owned by Nestlé, which has been criticised for its treatment of third world producers. I can see why the move came about but I think people felt connected to the brand and like me loved the stories that Roddick had told through the years – it was potentially the end of a chapter if not the book with the Body Shop for a lot of people.
Anita and Gordon Roddick, owned 18% of BodyShop stock and were reported to make £130m from the deal.

Anita Roddick on Women in Business

I have read lots of business books written by both men and women but Roddick’s book was one I was immediately drawn to, maybe its because I grew up seeing her brand develop and listening to the stories told through her messages. She is  a inspiring Woman who has over the years has won awards for her work supporting women in business.
In a 2001 article “Women on Top” Anita Roddick wrote:
Since I started my business, The Body Shop, in 1976, so little has changed in the corporations. Business organizations as we know them were created by men for men, often influenced by the military model. Hierarchical structures built on authority remain the same.
The only way this can be changed is for women to set up their own businesses. However, it is still far easier for a woman to go to a bank and secure a loan for a new kitchen or fitted wardrobe than it is to get them to agree to lend her money to start a business.
In every country I have traveled in the West, it is the older, larger corporations, dying of boredom, being eroded by giantism, that have lost millions of jobs. But it is the women-owned businesses that have been generating new jobs every year. My view is that these small to middle-sized companies that are becoming the backbone of any country’s economy.
Women are flooding the job market and boosting economic growth, helping to reshape the economy. They have been the linchpin in the shift toward service and away from manufacturing. Women are a strong force behind corporate innovations such as flextime, cafeteria benefit plans, and day care centers. Women have forced the humanization of the workplace.

If you start thinking big, you will be obsessed with the bigness rather than with getting that smallness brilliant.
Anita Roddick

The corporate world must take, and in many ways is already taking, notice. Women have to be listened to — they are standing up and they are shouting!
My advice to any woman thinking of running her own business is to start small and think of one thing — that you are in control of your own life. Think of it as an honorable livelihood, nothing more. If you start thinking big, you will be obsessed with the bigness rather than with getting that smallness brilliant.”
When I started my business in 2007, I found that being a woman in business gave me an edge, maybe because the industry I was working in was male orientated and even opened up grant opportunities. I even had found support with free mentoring, help with business planning and finances.

Activist and Environmental Campaigner

Aswell as running her hugely successful company Roddick was actively involved in activism and campaigning for environmental and social issues, including:

  • 1985 – Stop the dumping of toxic waste in North Sea, Greenpeace
  • 1980s – Against Animal Testing for cosmetics, collected 4 million signatures through shops
  • 1990 – Set-up project to refurbish 3 Romanian orphanages. Work extended into Albania and Bosnia
  • 1991 – Funded Unrepresented Nations and Peoples organization
  • 1993 to 98 – Ogoni Campaign against Shell and Nigeria
  • 1997 – Self-Esteem Campaign with its controversial mascot, Ruby, exposes myth of the perfect body
  • 2001 onwards –  Challenging Exxon-Mobil, World’s No 1 Global Warming Villain and campaigning for renewable energy for world’s 2 billion poorest people, Greenpeace
  • 2001 onwards – Challenging Globalization/Free Trade agenda of WTO, Trade Justice Coalition
  • 2001 onwards – Sweatshop Labor and workers’ rights in Free Trade Zones, National Labour Committee

In an opening statement in her book, Business as Unusual, she said:
“I have never believed that business was in a separate compartment from civilizing the world. That’s why I have always been an activist, an agitator and an entrepreneur rather than a conventional business leader.”
When Anita ran the Body Shop it was impossible to separate the company values from the issues that she cared about – social responsibility, respect for human rights, the environment and animal protection, and an absolute belief in Community Trade.
Footdown believes in putting people first and aligning people with the culture and values of the organisation – and Roddick did just this. She created a culture based on her values and the people around her believed in her and her values.
In 2004, Roddick was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis due to long-standing hepatitis C. After she revealed this to the media in February 2007, she promoted the work of the Hepatitis C Trust and campaigned to increase awareness of the disease. Anita Roddick continued even through her battle with health to fight for human rights and against economic initiatives and structures that abuse and ignore them.

My Thoughts

From humble beginnings, necessity and the desire to do the right thing, Anita Roddick is an inspiration.
As a Human Rights Activist and Founder of The Body Shop you just can’t help but be inspired and if not over whelmed by the achievements of one woman.

When I went into business, I didn’t think you had to leave yourself and your beliefs at the door.
Anita Roddick

Supported by her husband and inspired by her mother’s ethics she was hard working and unflinching in her beliefs.
As well as sticking to her principles, she listened to the people around her, nurtured her business and aligned the companies culture with her values.
She created a worldwide and powerful brand, followed the journey of every ingredient, had a passion for people and her products.
Even through the growth of The Body Shop her business stayed the same; a shop selling cosmetics and toiletries. Who would have thought that “bubble bath” and “moisturiser” could make such an impact on the way we buy and the way companies trade.
To close only the words of Anita Roddick can do her justice:
“The Body Shop is not, and nor was ever, a one-woman-show – it’s a global operation with thousands of people working towards common goals and sharing common values. That’s what has given it a campaigning and commercial strength and continues to set it apart from mainstream business.” Anita Roddick


Women at the Top

Throughout my career, so far, I continue to be inspired by the women in my life and in the working world. This week I read an article about newly appointed IBM CEO, Ginny Rometty, this has inspired me to research and write about the women who make it to top , what inspires them, motives them against the odds to get to the top of normally male dominated positions, why do women start the businesses they run and how do they balance what is important to them in there lives and what makes them tick. So each week I will learn and share lessons about how women are making it to, staying at and enjoying it at the top.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty

In 2011 the The IBM board of Directors elected Ginni Rometty as president and CEO of the company, to start in January 2012, making her the first ever woman to head up IBM, an awesome achievement.

IBM via Bloomberg

“Ginni got it because she deserved it… It’s got zero to do with progressive social policies. 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. Ginni’s long-term strategic thinking and client focus are seen in our growth initiatives, from cloud computing and analytics to the commercialization of Watson. She brings to the role of CEO a unique combination of vision, client focus, unrelenting drive, and passion for IBMers and the company’s future. I know the board agrees with me that Ginni is the ideal CEO to lead IBM into its second century.”  S Palmisano IBM CEO 2003 -2011.
This move promoted her from IBM senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy, where she was accountable for revenue, profit, and client satisfaction in the 170 global markets in which IBM does business. She was responsible for IBM’s worldwide results, which exceeded $99 billion in 2010 and also for leading IBM’s global strategy, marketing and communications functions.
Ginni Rometty is on the Board of Trustees of her alma mater Northwestern University, as well as on the Board of Overseers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and on The Deming Cup’s committee at Columbia Business School, which recognises individuals for operational excellence.

Ginni Rometty Background

Born in 1958, Ginni Rometty grew up in a Chicago suburb and is the oldest of four children. She has a Bachelor of Science degree with high honors in computer science and electrical engineering from Northwestern University. After graduation in 1979, she started an internship with General Motors in Detroit, where she met her husband Mark and joined IBM in 1981 as a systems engineer. She splits her time living in White Plains, New York, and Bonita Springs, Florida, where she and her husband Mark are avid scuba divers.

Career Highlights

  • In 2002, she championed the purchase of the big business consulting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, for $3.5 billion, this acquisition was the largest in professional services history, creating a global team of more than 100,000 business consultants and service experts
  • Credited with spearheading IBM’s growth strategy by getting the company into the cloud computing and analytics businesses.
  • 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, which is expected to contribute as much as 30 percent of IBM revenues by 2015.
  • Named in Fortune magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” for seven consecutive years, ranking #7 for 2011.
  • Led her group into the business of providing technology for complex transportation systems and upgrades of the electric grid. That spadework blossomed last year into IBM’s uber-strategy of providing the business expertise to help create a “smarter” planet.

Ginni Rometty on Taking Risks

CEO with a conscience

As well as being on the Board of Overseers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Rometty is a leader in diversity initiatives including IBM’s Women in Technology Council and the Women’s Leadership Council, and is one of the senior sponsors of the Women’s Executive Council. She is a frequent speaker at industry and business conferences.
Speaking at Northwestern University commencement speech last year, she said:
“IBM’s long- standing mantra is ‘Think.’ What has always made IBM a fascinating and compelling place for me, is the passion of the company, and its people, to apply technology and scientific thinking to major societal issues. Every day I get to ‘Think’ and work on everything from digitizing electric grids so they can accommodate renewable energy and enable mass adoption of electric cars, helping major cities reduce congestion and pollution, to developing new micro- finance programs that help tiny businesses get started in markets such as Brazil, India, Africa.  After 30 years, I’m genuinely excited to get up and apply those problem- solving skills in ways I would never have imagined when I was sitting where you are.”

Rometty on her Success

In an interview Rometty credits her husband with a crucial insight that helped shape her corporate ambitions and says she has grown the most in her career through “experiential” learning.
“I learned the most in my life and career when I took a risk.”
“Her succession at IBM has been the result of careful, long- term planning by the company’s board. Rometty not only held many key positions at IBM during her career, she also has received mentoring and exposure to global leaders important to IBM’s future” said R Kanter a Harvard Business School professor.

My Thoughts

This is no over-night promotion or success story. Ginni’s success comes from 30 years service at IBM, where she started as a System Engineer. She has worked hard in many areas of a large organisation, developed her skill set and made huge impacts on business revenues and strategy. Also from what I can see she has made personal sacrifices; having never had children and her husband provides a role that supports her in a very demanding job.
In the 2011 list of Fortune 500 companies, ranking of America’s largest corporations, 12 are run by women. That’s just 2%, so Ginny joins an small group of women at the top in the America.
Good luck to Ginny in heading up IBM and I look forward to reading more about her journey at the top.