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Virginia Rometty

“Seldom has a business executive stepped onto the global stage with so little known about her outside of her own company,” said Richard Waters in the Financial Times. But to those who know Virginia “Ginni” Rometty, 54, who in January will become IBM’s first female CEO in the company’s 100-year history, her rise is “striking because of its ordinariness.” The Chicago native with “a high-wattage smile and self-assured manner” has been with IBM for 30 years, starting out as a systems engineer before moving up the management ladder. Rometty “did not parachute in from the outside,” said Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter. “She worked her way up, with no special favors.”

Her promotion confirms IBM’s “reputation for promoting diversity” and eschewing the cult of personality found in many big tech companies, said Claire Cain Miller in The New York Times. Rometty says she learned to be bold early in her career when, after she asked for time to consider a big promotion, her husband pointed out that a man would never have hesitated. “It taught me you have to be very confident, even though you’re so self-critical inside,” she says. “And that, to me, leads to taking risks.”

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