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Article: Ginni Rometty, Fortune 500 CEO

Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO & Kappa Kappa Gamma

Ginni Rometty, Fortune 500 CEO

"As more women take on leadership roles, I encourage them to stay true to themselves, take risks, let their values guide them and, most important, use their voice and influence to create more opportunities and access for different people to create lasting change within." This quote from Ginni Rometty captures her perspective on women in leadership.

Prior to becoming CEO of IBM and ranking #1 on Fortune's Most Powerful Women list three years in a row, Rometty was the president of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at Northwestern University. She publicly credits her sorority experience with helping shape her leadership abilities for the business world.

Italian-American Rometty (born Virginia Nicosia), was the oldest of four siblings growing up outside of Chicago. Her single mother worked long hours, so Ginni took on household responsibilities while her mother worked nights.

Rometty attended Northwestern on a GM scholarship and graduated with honors and a BS in computer science and engineering in 1979. That same year, she married Mark Anthony Rometty and took his last name.

Rometty started her career at GM before joining IBM in 1981. She transitioned from technical roles into management and was ultimately named IBM's CEO in 2012. At that time, she was one of only 20 women leading Fortune 500 companies (a number that has since grown to 53 in 2024, though still under 10% of the total-- we can do better).

While she was CEO, she received honorary doctoral degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Northwestern University, and North Carolina State University. She co-chaired the Cyber Group at The Aspen Institute and in May 2019, Rometty received the prestigious Edison Achievement Award for her commitment to innovation throughout her career.

Rometty retired as IBM's CEO in 2020 after 39 years with the company, though she remained Executive Chairman until the end of that year. She was recognized as a leader in ethical AI development and quantum computing as well as a champion of diversity and inclusion efforts at IBM.

Now in retirement, Rometty has time for hobbies like golfing and scuba diving, but she remains highly active, serving on the boards of Northwestern University, Council on Foreign Relations, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Tsinghua University, Singapore Economic Development Board, J.P. Morgan, The Brookings Institution, Cargill, and The Aspen Institute. She also co-chairs OneTen, a not-for-profit organization working to hire and advance one million Black individuals without four-year degrees into family-sustaining jobs.

Rometty's story is one of perseverance, leadership, and a commitment to creating opportunities for others. Kappa's motto is "Dream Boldly. Live Fully." and Ginni Rometty understood the assignment!

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