Kai Ryssdal: Two months from today IBM’s going to have a new CEO. She’s a she. Virgina Rometty takes over come the first of the year. She’s been with IBM for 30 years — starting back when the number of women running a Fortune 500 company could be counted in the low single digits. Now it’s all the way up to 12.
So commentator Kristina Wong took the opportunity to write a letter to IBM’s future CEO.
Kristina Wong: Dear Virginia,
You go, sister! Media reports are saying you are ready for the challenge. Can I call you Ginni, since that’s what the IBMers call you?
Now the presence of women among top-ranking CEOs of major corporations is a whopping… 3 percent.
As IBM’s first woman CEO in 100 years, they are starting to call you “Big Pink.” A play on IBM’s “Big Blue” motto. Somehow IBM, with its change in leadership, has suddenly become all pastel. And of course, collaborative, thoughtful and caring. Hmm. Aren’t those just coded words for women in leadership positions?
But you’ll have to prove — as many women in the workplace do — that you know how to rumble with the big boys. But Ginni, I actually want to encourage you to live up to the dreaded stereotypes that discreetly keep women from breaking that glass ceiling.
Hear me out.
First off, how about owning up to Paul Horn’s, former head of IBM Research, description that people “trust you?” Instead of just playing into the social perception that women are more trustworthy, Ginni, you could actually be honest! You, Ginni, can lead the way in corporate honesty and accountability! What a revolutionary idea!
And just to mix up this “Big Pink” persona, how about injecting your leadership style with what corporate bigwigs might dismiss as “angry feminist” stuff? Why not find a way to make sure that women are no longer making 77 cents to each dollar their male counterparts get for the same workload?
Get in there and kick butt. Let’s face it, I’m not the only one who thought IBM all but disappeared with those giant grey machines you used to sell in the ’80s. You got quite a lot of work to do. Imagine if you led with the compassion, humanity, and equality that aren’t just characteristics of a “Big Pink” CEO, but a model for your fellow CEOs and the corporations of the future. Now that would be a big success.
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