HR l Smashing the glass ceiling? IBM appoints first female president and CEO

October 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Virginia ‘Ginni’ Rometty has been appointed the first female president and chief executive officer of IBM.

She was also elected a member of the board of directors, effective at that time. Rometty is currently IBM senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy and will succeed Samuel Palmisano, who currently is IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer in January. Palmisano will remain chairman of the board.

Rometty said: “There is no greater privilege in business than to be asked to lead IBM, especially at this moment. Sam had the courage to transform the company based on his belief that computing technology, our industry, even world economies would shift in historic ways. All of that has come to pass. Today, IBM’s strategies and business model are correct. Our ability to execute and deliver consistent results for clients and shareholders is strong. This is due to Sam’s leadership, his discipline, and his unshakable belief in the ability of IBM and IBMers to lead into the future. Sam taught us, above all, that we must never stop reinventing IBM.”

Chris Parke, CEO, Talking Talent, said: “The news today that technology giant, IBM, will be appointing its first female chief executive, represents yet another positive step for women in business.

“Lord Davies has raised this issue up the agenda, and we are now beginning to see women being appointed into senior positions within FTSE companies.

“It is vital for organisations to recruit female talent, and to promote women to the board. Retention of the best talent means a greater pool of leadership, a more diverse team and a dramatic reduction in costs associated with attrition.

“Clearly, a cultural shift is needed – it’s now a question of watching this space…”

Karen Dobson, director, Robert Half UK, added: “It is fantastic that we are witnessing talented individuals such as Virgina Rometty being promoted to head up a global organisation, however, it is disappointing that this is still viewed as unusual or sensational.

“That talk of a gender divide still has currency in the workplace is extremely disappointing more than 80 years after universal suffrage was achieved. While HR directors believe men do not have an advantage over women in the workplace, there is still not equality on the boards of FTSE 100 companies or in gender pay. Companies should regularly review their succession and remuneration plans to ensure that women are treated fairly and equally, with policies to take into account their family and personal commitments.

“Companies can help break the glass ceiling by carefully managing the talents of strong female candidates early in their careers and implementing diversity programmes specifically tailored to women.”

The news comes as research from Robert Half reveals that the appointment of Rometty as Chief Executive Officer at IBM is not a revolution, but an evolution in the workplace. Three quarters (78%) of UK based HR directors do not believe men have an advantage over women in the workplace. However, while they may believe the barriers to equality have been broken down, we are yet to witness true parity in terms of pay and board representation.

Initiatives based on positive discrimination, or the specific advancement of women in business, are low on the agenda for a majority of UK companies with only 41% of HR directors saying they have, or plan to introduce, programmes specifically tailored for women.

For those who do have policies in place, it is encouraging to see that an overwhelming 93% of respondents believe they are effective in helping women become professionally on par with their male counterparts. This suggests that, in addition to improving a business’ diversity credentials, these policies are a good employer branding opportunity to encourage more women candidates to apply to these roles.

Initiatives companies seek to implement to help women become professionally on par with men in the workplace are predominantly focussed on professional development and higher education opportunities (60%). While just under half (47%) of HR Directors surveyed cited the setting of performance targets as the key to closing gender inequality, while 40% cited the need for a flexible working environment, encompassing factors such as flexitime and telecommuting.

The national study was developed by Robert Half. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on more than 180 telephone interviews with HR Directors from a random sample of UK companies. For the study to be statistically representative and ensure that companies from all segments were represented, the sample was stratified by geographic region and number of employees.

HR l Smashing the glass ceiling? IBM appoints first female president and CEO

David Woods
27 Oct 2011


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