In reading the announcement of Virginia Rometty’s selection as CEO of IBM effective January 1, I was a little annoyed by the persistent mentioning of her sex. Yes, it is true that she will be in a minority among Fortune 500 CEOs (I believe the current number of women leading Fortune 500 CEOs is 17). If we need to count based upon race, gender or ethnicity then perhaps I should mention that only 11 backs have ever been named CEO of a Fortune 500 company, with only one being a woman or what I use to call the perfect choice, hiring a female of color (You get to check more diversity boxes that way). Finally, is it really necessary to remind us that HP just hired a female CEO as well (Meg Whitman)?
My answer is not only “No, but heck no."
The perfect choice is the person who has the skills and vision to perform the job, or in this case, lead the company. Ginny Rometty has been with IBM for 30 years and has demonstrated her ability to advance within the company through performance, leadership and vision. She will be declared a success if she can navigate IBM through the next generation of rapidly changing technologies, customer demands and industry directions. IBM is a company that has proven it can evolve to address changing business environments. Through their selection of Ms. Rometty, they have shown they employ succession planning and are comfortable with in-house talent carrying the company forward.
IBM faces a number of challenges ranging from maintaining their leadership position in the IT services space to establishing market leadership and financial growth with cloud computing. IBM’s CloudBurst offering will face competition from HP and Dell as well as Amazon and Google. It will take considerable skill to successfully lead IBM for the next few years. It will be interesting to follow this change in CEOs and see how Ms. Rometty makes her mark upon this 100-year-old but still innovative company.
As we develop our best talent to create companies that deliver services and products, add to our communities and provide good and healthy work environments, the last thing we should be concerned with is race, sex or ethnicity. Recognize this simple fact. There are more women in colleges than men. There are more women with bachelor’s degrees than men. Women now equal men with advanced degrees, a master’s or doctorate.
A business does itself more harm than good if it does not hire and promote on merit. It is time to stop counting and just make the perfect choice.
David Byrd is vice president of marketing and sales for Broadvox, and is responsible for marketing and channel sales programs to SMBs, enterprises and carriers as well as defining the product offering. Prior to joining Broadvox, David was the vice president of Channels and Alliances for Eftia and Telcordia. As director of eBusiness Development with i2 Technologies, he developed major partnerships with many of the leaders in Internet eCommerce and supply chain management. As CEO of Planet Hollywood Online he was a pioneer in using early Internet technologies to build a branded entertainment and eCommerce website company partnered with Planet Hollywood. Having over 20 years of telecom sales and marketing experience, he has held executive positions with Hewlett-Packard, Sprint and Ericsson.